I REFER to the article "Need a job? Invent it" (NST, April 1). The columnist makes an interesting observation. Finland, one of the most innovative economies in the world, is the only country where students leave high school "innovation-ready".
They learn concepts and creativity more than facts, and have a choice of many electives -- all with a shorter school day, little homework and almost no testing.
This is food for thought. We could use their success as a source of reference and comparison.
While the Education Ministry must be commended for gearing our schools to "learn concepts and creativity more than facts" and to "have a choice of many electives", practices on the ground indicate that we do not do "shorter school day, have little homework and almost no testing". We have longer school day, more homework and vigorous testing.
FIRST, a shorter school day in Finland may not be any shorter than a normal school day as practised here; they made it shorter compared with their previous practice. In Malaysia, our school day seems to have been made longer and longer.
In many secondary schools, a day begins at 7.30am and does not end until 3.30pm, a whole eight-hour engagement. And, this does not include the hours of additional revision classes for examination-year students.
In some primary schools, there are formal paid tuition after school for Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) pupils. Some of these classes begin as early as after mid-Year 5. We are still very much into rote learning and studying for the sole purpose of scoring in examinations; the antidote prescription for creative and elective learning.
On the other hand, we also hear of normal classes being left unattended because teachers are away for all kinds of courses, meetings, workshops, sports and other activities.
We need to relook at our school time management. Some heads seem to think that just putting in "quantity" time will justify the outcome. It is time we examined what "quality" is imbued in the "quantity" times.
School administrators should give more creative and innovative thoughts to designing school hours so that students, teachers and parents are spared the unnecessary long school hours.
Students and teachers need more of their "own" time for their tired minds to rest and rejuvenate so that they can be creative and innovative. Running through the mill everyday is not the formula for creativity and innovation.
SECOND, "little homework". We are far from it, more so with our primary pupils. The heavy school bags issue has stayed on with us with no solution.
If we examine closer, we discover that much of the homework comprised "drilling" exercises. While drilling does have beneficial effects, an overdose of it may be detrimental to the intention of cultivating a creative and innovative mind.
Many smart pupils are often repugnant to works of a repetitive nature. It stifles their initiative and inquisitive nature.
In the case of secondary schools, with the School-based Assessment (SBA), students and teachers are equally burdened with the doing and assessing respectively of the many project works required of the subject they take or teach.
If every project work has as its main aim to inculcate a "holistic learning process", why the necessity to have project work for every subject a student takes? Can't project works be better coordinated so that students do fewer project works?
With fewer project works, students and teachers will have more free time of their own.
THIRD, "almost no testing". This is utopian to us, at least for now. While SBA aims to remove the stigma of an examination-oriented school system, now not only do students worry about the numerous assessments held throughout the school term, they are also burdened with the end of term exams such as UPSR and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.
There is also a more stringent grading system. For examinations, we have A+, A, A-, B+, B, C+, C, D, E and SBA, the 6-level band-system of assessment.
Perhaps it is time for us to look at some of our own approaches. They have to be right lest we are but chasing the wind and we labour in vain.Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan New Straits Times Online Opinion 05/04/2013