The general consensus of the roundtable discussion on ‘UPSR & PMR: Retain, Revamp or Rid?’ was that these examinations should not be abolished as yet and more time is needed for consultation before any decision is made.
Participants also expressed concern over school-based examinations and many felt that politicians should stay out or play a minimal role in education-related issues.
About 100 participants attended the 4-hour roundtable discussion organised by Wawaan Open University and SEDAR Institute at Menara PGRM, Kuala Lumpur. The event was opened by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kohilan Pillay while WOU Deputy Vice Chancellor (Strategy, Planning and Continuing Education) U K Menon gave the introductory speech.
The discussion was led by four distinguished speakers from the field of education: Prof Dr Fatimah Hashim, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya; Dr Jamil Adiman, Sector Head for Policy and Development, Examination Syndicate, Ministry of Education; Lok Yim Phing, Secretary-General of National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP); and Mawarni Hassan, a former teacher and officer at the Examination Syndicate and currently Assistant Vice President with Malayan Banking Berhad. The session was moderated by Prof Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Dean, School of Education, Languages and Communications, WOU.
Dr Jamil opened the proceedings stating that the Examination Syndicate has been studying the current practices in various nations where there are no public examination at primary and lower secondary levels. He highlighted the notions of “assessment for learning” which focuses on how to improve learning and “assessment of learning” which gauges on how much has been learned by students.
Prof Fatimah called for a review of the educational system. She said that research has shown that national public examinations have a strong influence and this has resulted in teaching and learning for examinations. She noted that the problem lies in the way examination results are used and not in the examination themselves. She called for developing examinations that will make students think and become innovative.
Meanwhile Lok remarked that the present examinations seem to create robotic students and that NUTP was in favour of abolishing the two examinations but with certain conditions. She wanted a system that will allow students to develop at their own pace and for the government to consider non-automatic promotions in schools. She was also not in favour of assessment being handed over to schools as she feared the reliability and validity of the examinations.
Mawarni said that examination results have been used as standards and this has caused various problems. She said that the UPSR failed to allow teachers to help weak students and the PMR has prevented gifted students from progressing and developing their potentials. She called for a simple outcome-based system which provides concrete standard benchmarks which could be understood by all.
The roundtable discussion ended with assurances from Lau Chin Hoon, Head of Education and Knowledge Society Bureau, Gerakan and Khaw Veon Szu, Executive Director of SEDAR Institute, that the proceedings and feedback from the participants will be forwarded to the Minister of Education and the Cabinet.