THE School-Based Assessment (PBS) has only just begun and teachers are already complaining, rightly, that they are burdened by their online data entry tasks and about the apparently inefficient and often "dysfunctional" computer system.
I can identify with and feel the disillusionment and disappointment of the teachers.
A few years back, the Education Ministry began its online examination registration. We experienced the same computer hiccups -- difficulty in logging on, system hangs, data loss, need to sign in again and again and slow processing. This was subsequently rectified and today, you don't hear much about teachers complaining about logging in to register students' examination entries.
The present task of online reports for School-Based Assessment (SPPBS), which includes assessment for physical activities (SEGAK) and other personal particulars, are much more expansive and massive by comparison.
Given time, however, the "glitches" will be solved and teachers' complaints resolved. After all, the ministry has the expertise for the software and the allocations for the hardware.
But that is not the point. The point is: why is there a need to upload to the ministry every individual student's profile -- personal, curricular as well as co-curricular details?
Granted that data, information and their analyses are necessary in decision-making, aren't there other more efficient ways that could be equally valid and reliable but that gather only the necessary data from schools?
I thank the ministry for coming up with this comprehensive online reporting of students' profiles. It helps schools to "track" their students. But let these individual student profiles "stay" in schools.
What the district education offices need are the individual school profiles under their charge; and similarly, the state education departments need the individual district office profiles and the ministry needs the individual state department profiles.
Isn't this what decentralisation is all about? Let the schools administer themselves according to policies spelled out by the ministry. There is no need for the ministry/state/district to watch "over the shoulders", to the extent of even wanting to know the performance and profile of each and every student in school.
Are we to think that if the ministry/state/district office "detects" a "shortcoming" in a particular student, it is going to send an officer to visit and investigate? Certainly, it's not so. Then, why is the need for individual reports all the way up to the ministry?
The challenge is for the ministry's research sector to come up with the relevant formats of data input for the different levels of reporting. A school profile to the district office will not be as expansive as the "all students" individual profiles. It should be lean, discrete and purpose-driven.
The same goes for the district and state profiles to be uploaded by their respective owners. The tasks will then be much easier and manageable at every level, and if properly executed, it should not lose any of the essential ingredients for problem solving and decision making.
It is not that student profiles are not important to the district/state/ministry. If for some reason detailed data is needed, for example for a research purpose, the officers concerned can easily contact the sample schools involved to extract the necessary data from the database in those schools.
There is no need to have an "all-inclusive" uploading as is done now. I can only guess much of the uploaded online data would be gathering "dust", or in more appropriate terms, be entangled in "cobwebs" somewhere along the line. In short, they are minimally used, a waste and, therefore, totally cost-ineffective.
I read in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 preliminary report that the ministry is targeting for parents to access their children's school profiles online.
I suppose this "all-inclusive" uploading will enable and facilitate this new venture. Won't it be more personal and relationship-friendly and effective if concerned parents come to school at appointed or mutually agreed times to access the profiles of their children together with the school counsellors or other teachers in charge?
The human interaction will bring forth greater benefits and meaning to the cold data displayed online. Moreover, most schools now have their own websites. If at all necessary, get this information into the school website and parents can access them accordingly. This is a more cost-effective and labour-saving method.
No doubt, technology facilitates and enables fast information dissemination. But, it is not entirely labour free, more so for school teachers. If there is truly a need, let the rule be this: minimum data uploaded online. Teachers need more time to interact with their students, to teach and to guide them in their holistic development. It will be tragic if they have to spend many hours, in and out of school, to do data entry work. Let teachers teach.
Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 23 November 2012