To do or not to do, that is the question during the forthcoming review of the system.
THE Deputy Prime Minister’s recent statement that the school-based assessment (SBA or PBS) is to be reviewed came as quite a surprise.
The reason given is basically technical, namely the problem of system database application and server issues following complaints from teachers that the online system for them to key in assessment marks was always congested, thus forcing them to do so from locations outside of school.
As such, the task could even stretch until the wee hours of the morning.
To review a system that had taken years of serious planning and multiple series of discussions and debates at various levels, which had incurred millions of ringgit, begs several urgent questions.
Does “to be reviewed” mean that the system will be stopped and abandoned, or that its attendant problems will be rectified?
If the problem was technical, was not the matter duly addressed in the discussions and dialogues with stakeholders prior to its implementation?
Was it not part of the expected problems included in the research conducted?
Should the problem be indeed technical, albeit unsubstantial, does it justify abandoning the grand plan, once termed “the great transformation” that will thrust forward our educational system to a new era?
Thus, it is rather perplexing that after promoting the grand philosophies behind the transformation, technical glitches take centre stage as an obstacle of the plan.
Education is undoubtedly the most crucial factor, especially in building a civilisation.
In the past, great civilisations were marked by their glorious achievements in education.
The Greek and Roman empires had left a deep impact in the history of mankind through esteemed educational institutions such as the Academy of Plato and the Lyceum of Aristotle.
Similarly, the Islamic civilisation was well known with their outstanding libraries and universities such as Baitul Hikmah and al-Azhar University.
Western civilisation takes great pride in the universities of Oxford and Harvard as symbols of monumental educational achievements.
Today, education remains a powerful variable in defining a developed nation.
Instruments such as literacy rate, number of schools and world university rankings are among the fundamental criteria in determining the status of a developed nation.
The better the system of education in a country, the higher it is in global standing.
For an educational system to be strong and impactful, it must be based at least on four key factors: substantial philosophy, well-planned curriculum, strong human resource (teachers) and adequate infrastructure and support system.
The PBS is at least based on a strong philosophy of creating a more independent student with critical and analytical abilities to think in a higher order.
By leaving behind the examination-based system, it is also aimed at producing students who are able to understand properly the subject matter of their studies, rather than merely memorising and regurgitating them in examinations.
Neither is curriculum a concern since the PBS basically makes use of the old curriculum, geared towards the new way of continuous assessments rather than examination-centred.
The problem with PBS is obviously the two remaining factors – the human resource (teachers) and infrastructure.
For one thing, teachers have to cope with the new culture which is far more hectic and time consuming.
They also need to be equipped with a new mindset to evaluate students no longer based on the exam-oriented system.
Such a task is not easy for those who have been trained in the exam-oriented system for years to grade their pupils accordingly with As, Bs and Cs but now to be ever ready to measure students on a daily basis.
Notedly, the more serious problem lies in the infrastructure as starkly reflected by the complaints lodged from the teachers group.
Since the PBS is an independent system for students and a continuous assessment from teachers, much of the work depends on the ICT system.
On the one hand, students have to solely depend on computers and the internet to find materials.
On the other, teachers too depend as much if not more on the same tools to key in their assessments and measurements.
Inevitably, congestion to the system ensues especially when most complete their tasks at the last minute.
Such a scenario shows that the educational plan does not work in a vacuum.
It is interconnected with other spheres that serve as the support system of education.
The interconnecting spheres should have been properly prepared first before embarking on such an educational system.
Whether the PBS will be reviewed or even abandoned remains to be seen, but such areas as discussed nevertheless ought to be enhanced for the good of the nation.
Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran is Senior Fellow with Ikim’s Centre of Economics and Social Science. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home Opinion IKIM Views 18/02/2014