Ahmad Ali

reliable source of wise counsel

Doing away with Pri 1 exams

Recently there has been a spate of news about whether or not primary one exams should be done away. I for one believe that unless PSLE is done away or change/modified, primary one examinations should remain. If there was to be a change, minstry of education should change the format of PSLE first. Then it can filter down to the lower levels to suit the new format.

Amirul’s First Test
I remember the day and the first few weeks when my son, Amirul, got into primary one in Clementi Primary School. After being posted to a class, the first couple of days was designated for tests in Mathematics and English. A couple of weeks later, he was told to go to another class.

I remember him feeling very sad. It was not because it was his first time in a new environment or that he was scared. In fact, he was very excited. His mum cried actually but I digress. Amirul is a pr man. He would make friends. Maybe he has this inert ability to socialise in severe strangerisque environment. I dont know how, but he will make friends. And that will calm him. Like the time we went for National Soccer Trials at Jalan Besar Stadium. He was nervous initially. A while later, he said he was happy because he made a couple of friends. I muttered under my breath that I send you here to get into the squad and you telling me you made friends?…I digressed once again.

Back to him feeling sad. He said that he had made friends and got close to a classmate to which he refers as his best friend. When the results were out, both of them split classes and Amirul get to see his best friend only during recess. One day, the friend doesnt acknowledge him. Its understandable as most would have made new friends in their own class. Amirul told me about it and how his friend pushed him away. He broke into tears and I could have turned into Hulk.

So tests were already set to group students together based on their level of understanding of the subjects. This is because not all students received pre-school education. That is why the whole hoo haa about that recently. I mentioned this in an article here. I understand this rationale as school wish to optimise resources and maximise the potential of the students.

In Amirul’s primary two maths final year, he scored 98/100. He was the highest in the standard. The mistake was in the last question and I think it was worthy of 3/4 and not 2/4. As a parent, I wrote to the teacher to review and to allow a mark. My point was that it would boost his confidence. I think that it would have given him a sense of euphoria and that will let him pursue further.

The respond I got was that “We have to be strict as to prepare the students for the PSLE.”

This is similar to his comprehension where he forgets a punctuation or two. Minus half mark or one mark. “We have to be strict as to prepare the students for the PSLE.”

Top Class
In Primary 3, Amirul got into the top class. I was elated. He will brush with the best. As soon as school started, he was bombarded with tonnes of homework everyday. No less than 6 exercises including Maths challenging questions that can put some adults to shame. His composition has to be top notch like writing a short novel. This is the elite. At the end of the year, I think 4 was transferred to another school for gifted program.

Primary 2, 3, 4, 5?
I do not see the purpose of skipping exams in primary one. They still have to face it later. Making students taking tests in small doses means more tests in a year. In fact they are already having unofficial and official class tests, subject tests and topic tests. The kids have Maths, English and Mother Tongue till they are in primary3 where Science will be introduce. Why not do away with Primary 2? NO NO, have to prepare for primary 3. ?????

PSLE Format
PSLE is a gauge how well the student DOES the subjects. Yes they will have questions that are created to see if student UNDERSTANDS what he has learn – especially science. So we as parents go and get tonnes of assessment books to let our kids practice and be aware of the different ways a question may be asked. A good, no no, an excellent PSLE score will get the student into a top school. That will be the foundation for a brighter future – so we hope.

As you can see, to have any value in doing away with Primary one exams is to change the format of PSLE. Maybe, PSLE should be a whole year assessment or Primary 5 and 6. Then you can include holistic subjects as that seem to be the crux of the matter. If that were to happen, then the field will be leveled. What would be the yardstick then for entrance into secondary school?

Amount of time spent on volunteer work? A successful completion of mini thesis at the end of their primary school years? Involvement in national activities?

If this is going to be it, then a method of quantifying will have to be developed. Will it be the same or one weighs more than another? Is one enough for entrance into a top school or you would need all three to be tops?

In the article if I were the minister of education, i would combine kindergarten and primary school. I think, after this, I would expand the idea of merging primary with secondary. This way, there will be less need for competition and student emphasis on PSLE.

There is no end in sight. It will only gets tougher as time goes by as the scholars decide to play god with our kids future. In this 4 years of Amirul’s education, I have seen so much that it would be difficult to change as we have to consider entry to top secondary schools and then to Polytechnic or Junior colleges and then to university. There are too many levels.

I do not see any benefit in the long run in doing away with primary one examinations as its just collation of all small tests during the term. As long as PSLE is there, examinations are required. For whatever reason, for whatever benefit whoever is wishing to accomplish with the do away, i personally dont foresee it.

My mum always says when I was young that when I have my own kid, I would know. True enough, Im living it.

Leave a Reply