Contradictheory: Youngsters imply greater than an examination

THERE was a narrative lately of a child who obtained RM10,000 from his dad and mom for scoring 5As (and 1B) in his Commonplace Six UPSR examination (on-line at mStar). If you recognize me, you then’ll in all probability guess that I feel this can be a unhealthy thought. It’s going to color his thought of what doing exams are for, and by the point he will get to the SPM examination, he’ll in all probability argue it’s price not less than 10 instances that.

However the massive image is that examination grades matter. Grades are what universities take a look at when deciding if someone must be allowed to take a course. Should you’re not already at a sure commonplace (particularly in one thing as exact as Maths, which I did in college), then it makes the remainder of the journey a lot tougher. In brief, good grades permit for good alternatives for good careers.

Besides possibly not a lot this 12 months. Many who took the 2019 SPM Further Arithmetic paper reported that it was extraordinarily tough, with some allegedly leaving the examination corridor in tears.

Individuals had been so anxious that their children’ predicted grades had been in danger (and presumably their probabilities of moving into their college of selection) that they jumped on-line to signal a petition to decrease the marks required to realize these grades.

Lecturers even agreed the questions had been tough. I obtained a duplicate of the papers, and need to reluctantly agree, since there was one query that I wasn’t capable of do in any respect. (For the curious, it was query 5 of Paper One about statistics. Which each is sensible and is ironic on the identical time, as a result of statistics was one of many choices I skipped in college, but I additionally continuously make use of them when penning this column.) However simply because I couldn’t do it doesn’t imply it was unfair, and even that it was exhausting. It’s only a hole in my potential.

One query that many discovered tough was a couple of four-digit code, and what number of doable combos may I’ve if I don’t permit combos which have a one instantly adopted by a 3 in them. Now, initially, I believed this was a difficult query. Usually, if in case you have some of these counting questions, you form of multiply one quantity by one other. However for those who strive to do that with the protected query, you get into bother in a short time due to the numerous completely different instances to think about.

Nonetheless, for those who’re capable of keep calm and simply depend – actually record down – the combos that aren’t allowed, ensuring you don’t double depend, after which subtract that quantity from the overall variety of combos, you get the reply. It barely takes a minute, and it’s one thing even a nine-year-old may in all probability do.

The opposite questions that I perceive gave college students bother had been ones the place equations needed to be solved on the whole, reasonably than with a selected numeric resolution (so a solution would seem like “5a+b” as an alternative of “15”). I’d agree it’s tough for those who’re not used to it, nevertheless it’s basically the identical working, besides utilizing letters as an alternative of numbers.

Regardless of these exhausting questions, I consider the paper nonetheless gave loads of alternative for examination takers to indicate they’ll do maths. There have been some amazingly simple questions – in my view, too simple. And whereas elements of the paper had been exhausting, I consider it could have been equally exhausting for everyone.

The truth is, nice college students choose exhausting papers as a result of it’s simpler to indicate you’ll be able to rise to the highest. Deliver it on, as they are saying.

Regardless of this, I consider the complaints the examination was “too exhausting” nonetheless are legitimate. The fact is that if you’re a scholar who dropped from an A to a B, you then stand an actual danger of dropping your house in college. But, I’d say the issue isn’t within the scholar himself, however in the way in which exams have turn out to be a do-or-die mission.

A few years in the past (about 20), I listened to the consultants within the Training Ministry’s examination syndicate discuss what a superb evaluation seems to be like. For instance, it’s not about failing individuals who can’t reply questions; it’s about letting them present what they’re able to doing and exhibiting the way in which for many who haven’t fairly made the grade to show themselves later (bit.ly/school_plan).

As an alternative of only a single examination on the finish of 1 (or a number of!) years, you’ll have steady evaluation. And never essentially checks, however extra a large number of the way to reveal your potential. You’ll get duties from an merchandise financial institution and attempt to full them, and the instructor would observe not provided that you bought the reply proper but in addition the way you went about it. And each failure could be a possibility for the instructor to information the scholar to the following factor to be taught.

Regardless of understanding all this again then, we’ve by no means actually applied it correctly. A part of the reason being that it’s really a lot simpler to evaluate college students by setting checks with proper and fallacious solutions, and tying all the things up in a single neat grade. Then again, correct steady evaluation wants academics who’re expert sufficient to watch college students as they work and make extra subjective judgements about what they need to do subsequent.

Additionally – as I used to be advised then by a colleague – dad and mom really like a system the place you’ll be able to ship your children to tutorial centres that can assist them to churn out a grade. It appears a lot extra concrete.

Clearly, no paper could be price RM2,000 (the mathematics right here is the boy’s RM10,000 reward divided by his 5As) if solely as a result of the worth of an individual is so clearly past the results of a single examination.

It’s like how a portray shouldn’t be judged by a single dot. It’s not even in regards to the image as a complete at a single time limit. Evaluation must be extra about taking inventory and future enchancment – a illustration of an individual in flux, at all times looking for the correct mixture of colors to create one of the best image doable.


In his fortnightly column, Contradictheory, mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi explores the speculation that logic is the antithesis of emotion however individuals want each to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions. Write to Dzof at way of life@thestar.com.my. The views expressed listed here are fully the author’s personal.

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