THE School-Based Assessment, better known by its Malay acronym PBS (Pentaksiran Ber-asaskan Sekolah) was introduced last year in all government and government-aided primary schools, and this year in all government and government-aided secondary schools.
Thus, the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) in 2016 and the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) in 2014 will be revamped to accommodate the transformation. PBS is holistic and assesses the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, encompassing the intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects.
PBS embraces both academic and non-academic fields.
Teachers are given due recognition and have the autonomy to conduct formative assessment during the learning process and also summative assessment at the conclusion of a learning unit or any other suitable time during the school year at their own discretion, taking into account their pupils' readiness.
There are four components in PBS: central assessment, school assessment, assessment of physical, sports and co-curricular activities, and psychometric assessment.
Central assessment involves one or more tasks set by the Examinations Syndicate, but administered and graded by teachers, based on scoring rubrics provided by the central body.
School assessment is set, administered, graded and reported by the school based on the requirements of the curriculum. Learners' participation and involvement in sports and co-curricular activities are recorded and reported in assessment of physical, sports and co-curricular activities. Thus co-curricular activities also have a bearing on a pupil's achievement.
Psychometric assessment is another non-academic component that measures pupils' innate and acquired abilities.
There are four main reasons why PBS and its implementation have been introduced.
Firstly, PBS is expected to enhance the meaningfulness of assessment where the focus is more on pupils' development and growth in learning rather than merely on their scores or grades.
Secondly, PBS is designed to reduce the over-reliance on data (grades and scores) obtained through central examinations in getting information about pupils in the school system.
Thirdly, it is anticipated that PBS will empower the school and teachers to conduct quality assessment of pupils. Therefore, school assessment will be given due recognition and a significant place in the overall assessment system; and,
Fourthly, PBS ensures that the performance of pupils is comparable to world standards in various areas of knowledge, skills and competence, with the introduction of a standard-referenced assessment.
Teachers conduct formative assessment during learning and also summative assessment, which is normally carried out at the conclusion of a learning unit, or at the end of a semester, or at the end of the year.
The new system does not constrict the teachers to create test papers or handouts every time they wish to assess a pupil's achievement. Teachers may also carry out creative activities that are fun to gather information about their pupils' progress.
Homework, quizzes, question- and-answer sessions and even observations are all examples of activities that teachers could use to assess pupils' development and growth.
Thus, in order to help teachers record and report pupils' progress, the Examinations Syndicate has developed the PBS Management System (SPPBS), which is web-based. It is also available as a stand-alone programme for schools that do not have access to the Internet.
PBS concurs with the standard referenced assessment in which pupils' achievements are measured against a performance standard (Standard Prestasi) which is developed by the Examinations Syndicate and mapped from the standard curriculum. Performance standard explains the performance or mastery of a pupil in a particular field within a learning period, based on an identified benchmark.
The standard referenced assessment allows teachers as well as parents to trace and measure each pupil's progress based on his performance, measured against a set of performance indicators.
Thus, a learner's achievement is no longer measured by comparing his grades/scores with those of his peers. In this manner, a learner only competes with himself.
Therefore, a learner's achievement is no longer gauged by his position in class. Instead, his achievement is ranked with reference to bands One to Six; one being the lowest and six the highest.
With PBS, learners' achievements are reported with reference to Bands rather than Grades A,B,C etc, or raw scores, for example 85 per cent.
Band One shows that a learner "tahu", or knows. For example, in Mathematics, a Year One learner is able to recognise numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.
Band Two reflects tahu dan faham, or knows and understands, which in Mathematics refers to the ability to understand the value of numbers; for example, eight is less than nine, four is more than three, etc.
Band Three records that a learner tahu, faham dan boleh buat, which shows that he is able to apply knowledge. In Mathematics, Band Three shows that a learner can add, subtract, divide and multiply. A learner who has attained Band Three is considered to have acquired the basic skills pertaining to the subject.
A learner who attains Band Four (tahu, faham dan boleh buat dengan beradap) shows the ability to solve an elementary mathematical operation using the correct protocol. A Band Five (tahu, faham dan boleh buat dengan adab terpuji) reflects the learner's ability to solve problems. For example, if a chicken costs RM3, how many chickens can Ali buy with RM9?
Finally, a learner who is awarded a Band Six demonstrates the ability to make a value judgment and is creative or innovative in solving mathematical problems.
In comparison to the previous grading system, Band Three is equal to a passing grade. Thus, pupils who fail to achieve Band Three will be supported through remedial work to help them achieve a minimum Band Three.
PBS makes it possible for teachers to provide immediate feedback to pupils at each stage of the learning curve. The feedback based on the performance standard will enable teachers and pupils to identify their strengths and weaknesses during learning.
Thus, early detection of pupils' inability to master a skill should enable the teachers to formulate remedial tasks to help them improve their learning and achievements. Hence, PBS enables learners to advance at their own pace in a less stressful environment.
The main focus of PBS is assessment for and of learning. Assessment should be integrated in the learning process and be used to enhance pupils' mastery of learning. If managed and implemented wisely, teachers would find PBS beneficial and less burdensome.
To ensure the smooth sailing of PBS, two applications -- SPPBS (Sistem Pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasakan Sekolah) and PAJSK (Pentaksiran Aktiviti Jasmani, Sukan dan Kokurikulum) -- were developed to ensure teachers are not burdened with clerical duties.
The applications store data on learners' achievement which can be retrieved to report learners' strengths and areas where more help is needed to parents and other interested parties.
Through PBS, teachers are required to file evidence of pupils' work as proof that the learner has attained the necessary skills to merit the bands they are awarded. It is claimed that the quality assurance for PBS implementation is maintained through the process of mentoring, monitoring, moderation and detection at various levels.
I concur with all points highlighted in the recent letter by Liong Kam Chong, "Education: Room for improvement" (NST, Jan 23). No matter how well organised and well planned PBS might appear to be, the evaluation is still too subjective.
The schools may differ in the way they grade their students as it is impractical to completely eliminate human biases and prejudices when multiple individuals are involved. The variations of evaluation standards between teachers themselves may also be questioned in the future.
The previous mark-based grading system has encouraged pupils to score higher and higher in order to improve their performance in a subject.
Indirectly, this has given the opportunity for healthy competition between the students to take place. I doubt that such healthy competition will take place in the vicinity of the new Band-based grading system. The students have less control over their performance as it is predominantly up to teachers to grade the students.
The question is, how does this system encourage healthy competition among students to perform better?
PBS is still new to parents. The lack of a proper introduction on PBS to parents means they may not be able to play an important role to support the new system.
Most of the parents are still in a state of shock after hearing about the abolition of UPSR and PMR examinations.
Previously, streaming in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (science, engineering, social science, arts, etc) was done according to the grades obtained for related subjects in PMR.
However, the streaming system via PBS is still ambiguous. As streaming is important to separate students according to their interests and intellectual capabilities, I feel that their future is in jeopardy.
The recent issue regarding the scraping of teaching of Maths and Science in English has left schools in turmoil over deciding which language to use. The ability of PBS to fill the gap left by the previous teaching system is questionable.
Harintharavimal Balakrishnan, Skudai, Johor Baru | email@example.com New Straits Times Online Opinion 30 January 2013