THE school-based assessment or better known by its Malay acronym, PBS, continues to cause much hue and cry in schools. This is understandable.
Firstly, the band system makes no substantial or material difference.
Under the PBS, a student’s mastery of a subject matter is assessed and ranked with reference to bands One to Six; One being the lowest and Six the highest.
How different really is this system from the A-B-C-D-E-F grade system, or even the Percentage Score system?
Any secondary student will quickly and easily link and associate Band Six with Grade A and/or a Percentage Score of 80 and above.
And, how is Band One not equally “damning” as Grade E/F or a Percentage Score of 20 and below?
A student with a Band Six achievement must have “mastered” the subject as much as one who manages to score a Grade A or Percentage Score of 80 and above.
If questions set are of a standard quality, then only those whose understanding of the subject matter has reached Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of application-analysis and/or synthesis-evaluation can score a Grade A or a Percentage Score of 80 and above.
The “newness” or “innovation”, if you can call it that, associated with the band system will wear off in no time.
For many students, it will be business as usual; chasing after Band Six instead of Grade A or a Percentage Score of 80 and above.
Secondly, the band system is made a tedious process and hence it is completely impractical for a normal school with normal-size classes.
Imagine a class of 35 students. How is a teacher going to “band” each student for every new topic taught, for that’s what banding is all about if it is to achieve its maximum effectiveness and efficiency?
Not to mention that the teacher has to input all this data online into the SPPBS (System Pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah).
And, we are not talking yet about teachers being required and responsible to “teach” students in different bands differently and finally bringing them all to Band Six.
How can you do this in a single 40-minute period or 80-minute double period of teaching in a secondary school?
On the other hand, any experienced teacher will know the percentage of his/her students in the class who can grasp a topic taught.
The percentage varies with the difficulty level of the subject matter taught.
An experienced teacher who knows his/her class well knows this at the onset of the lesson or he/she will detect the level of understanding the class can achieve as the lesson progresses.
There is no need to do banding. The teacher knows if he/she has had sufficient interaction time with his/her students in and outside of the classroom.
Sadly, the PBS takes away this precious interaction time from the teachers.
Moreover, to improve efficiency, a teacher will gear his/her teaching approach accordingly so as to benefit the majority of the students.
That is a realistic practical approach. The teacher doesn’t need the banding results to inform him/her.
Thirdly, the idea that every student can be taught/trained/coached to reach Band Six in every subject matter at every level of study is hypothetical and an illusion.
At the lower forms and with simpler subject matter, perhaps this may be possible within a larger range.
But, try it for example, some Form Four/Five Additional Mathematics or Physics topics that are considered and proven to be difficult for most students, and you will instantly know you are heading nowhere.
Some students just snap when they have reached their limit.
They just can’t see the connection any more no matter how hard they try.
Their left brain can deliver just so much! But, what’s so wrong with that?
Don’t we also have some students who excel in Mathematics, Physics and other Sciences, but when it comes to appreciation of Fine Arts and Music, they are as completely lost as their classmates who are “poor” in Mathematics and Science.
They can’t reach Band Six as their right brain can just deliver so much. And, what is so wrong with that?
Are we to deny that God has made us differently and blessed us with different talents?
So, what are all these callings to get everyone onto Band Six in every subject area?
You have achieved “success” even if you do not score Band Six for certain topics in certain subjects. You need not be excellent in every subject area.
Fourthly, teachers don’t need the banding exercise. If they spend sufficient time with their students, they can discern the band(s) their students are in for the topics taught.
Without the banding exercise, teachers together can spend more time reflecting and deliberating on their teaching methodologies and improving their professional understanding of the knowledge contents of their subjects. That’s the way to enhance teacher quality.
This is more crucial and beneficial.
Do not get teachers to spend long hours typing “1-2-3-4-5-6” into their computers! It is a worthless and futile exercise.
In conclusion, PBS banding is impractical. PBS banding is a much-ado-about-nothing kind of practice/exercise.
Would the Education Ministry listen and consider doing away with PBS banding before it does more harm, demoralising all concerned?
LIONG KAM CHONG Seremban The STAR Online Home News Opinion Wednesday February 6, 2013