THE 2013 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) Moral Paper debacle exposed the teaching and learning style of our school examination students.
There was a big furore over the questions for the SPM Moral paper that required students to answer the questions using their thinking skills instead of merely “regurgitating” memorised moral values.
In the past the trend was for students to memorise the 36 core moral values and regurgitate them word-for-word in the examination.
This year the Education Ministry’s Examinations Syndicate required the students to answer the questions using their thinking skills. This virtually put them off because it was not the norm — they had been taught and drilled differently by their teachers.
The format of the Moral paper was still the same. The only change was the manner of answering the questions but this was in line with the thinking skills that is advocated in our education system.
The examination syndicate should have forewarned teachers and students of this change.
Students sitting for major public examinations such as Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), Penilaian Menengah Rendah, SPM and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) are taught techniques on how to answer and score in examinations.
The students are given specific guidelines on the format of the question paper and the structure of the answers.
Experienced and senior teachers who mark examination papers are quite skilled in imparting the techniques of answering and scoring examination questions.
Students are given numerous workshops to master the techniques of answering the examination questions. They are exposed to model answers to the questions.
In this context, there is no thinking skills incorporated in the examination system.
The questions are generally taken from past year papers and students are trained to answer the past year examination papers for the respective subject.
Examiners who mark the examination papers are provided with the standard answer scheme for the questions.
The examiners are briefed on how to mark the papers. And examiners have to abide by the answer scheme and structure strictly in awarding marks.
In such a scenario, there is no room for candidates to come up with answers that are “out of the box”.
The students have to conform to the standard answer pattern that they have been taught.Candidates are penalised for anything that is not in the answer scheme.
All this points to the fact that memorisation still plays an important part in our teaching and learning system.
Through memorisation and rote learning, good students are able to get As in the examination.
Incorporating “thinking skills” into our education system that emphasises on critical, creative and analytical learning is a challenge to our examination system that still tests on rote learning.
Samuel Yesuiah Seremban Negeri Sembilan The STAR Online Home News Education Opinion 08/12/2013