The School-Based Assessment expands equality of opportunity
SCHOOLS will no longer hold the unpredictability they used to. As of April 1, children will proceed from primary through to the end of their school years without fearing Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) that once used to cut a child's schooling journey short. With the introduction of the School-Based Assessment (PBS), school drop-outs can no longer hide behind the excuse of learning disabilities or a challenged intellect.
The education system promises to look after them, providing them with remedial classes and placing the onus on teachers to identify them early. In short, PBS will turn teachers into more than educators, responsible for preparing children for life after school in a world where skills are synonymous with knowledge. They will fulfil Malaysia's human capital needs.
PBS, too, ropes parents into their children's classroom odyssey. While PBS has been refined to not overly burden teachers with the duty of inputting a child's intellectual, creative and sporting progress daily, the online nature of the system should allow parents access to their children's academic and co-curricular records.
Whereas until this year, parents are geared to preparing their offspring for the "important" examinations and progress is monitored via report cards, from next month onwards, egging the child to perform at school becomes a perennial task for teachers and parents alike. Indeed, how assessments are made and scores allocated are mapped out by the Examinations Board. Much, however, is left to teachers' inventiveness to sculpt pupils' learning experience.
Some parents might be alarmed wondering where in the system is competitiveness propagated. Being conditioned to a school environment where beating the opponent to the finishing line, whether academically or in sports, is the mark of excellence, parents find it difficult to envisage the love of knowledge as the driving force behind learning.
Of course, leaving too much to the teacher is inviting a high degree of subjectivity, but these possibilities are already considered and surmounted by the system. What it does allow for is flexibility on the part of schools within the guidelines set and the nationally synchronised assessment methods and their timing. The challenge now is to motivate those children who once pined for failure and an early end to school. A curriculum comprising of traditional book learning, assignments, projects, field studies and case studies ought to excite the grey matter from a very young age. School is now where intellectual stimulation and exploration happens for every Malaysian child.
NST Opinion Editorial 20 March 2014