THE Education Ministry has given an assurance that there will be no bias in the marking of papers under the School Based Assessment System or "Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah" (PBS). Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said the ministry would appoint an external examination committee to evaluate and make sure marking was correct and transparent.
This is welcome news to parents who have been worried that there may be favouritism if school exams were decentralised. There was fear that teachers may give preferred pupils higher marks. Another concern was that the standards of grading would differ from one school to another. Schools with "lower" standards may give their students higher grades, so they appear to perform consistently better than their counterparts in other schools. But all these worries have now been put to rest with the checks and balances that have been instituted.
But for the system to work best, it needs the support of all parents, and a change in the way they perceive examinations as a whole. Indeed, the Malaysian examination system has been reviewed, but what seems as much in need of an overhaul is the attitude of parents. Nothing introduced will work if parents continue to insist on pushing their children to heights unimaginable and impossible.
This attitude resulted in the ministry scrapping the Phase One Assessment Test ("Penilaian Tahap Satu") in 2001, just five years after it was introduced. The test, which enabled pupils to be promoted from Year Three to Five, had to be done away with for several reasons, prominent among which was the behaviour of parents.
As the ministry said in a statement: "We found that pupils taking PTS were subjected to unnecessary pressure by their parents, who viewed it as a status symbol when their child was promoted. On the other hand, pupils who did not perform well were mentally traumatised as they were made to feel like failures."
Examinations should only be for assessing whether a child comprehends what has been learnt so far. It must not instil fear, nor cause a child to be shrouded in an overwhelming sense of worthlessness if one less A shows up on the result slip. Pupils should just be told to study hard and do their best. If their best does not produce even a single A, then that is something that needs to be accepted without hair-pulling and hysterics on the part of parents, who need to be reminded that examinations are not the sole yardstick of a pupil's worth.
NST Opinion Editorial 06 April 2014