By Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail
The abolishment of the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination, as announced by Education Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin, is one step towards ensuring that today’s children are able to benefit from an education system that is of global standards. This is not something new – it is the first shift in the Malaysian Education Blueprint (2013-2025).
By shifting from a rote-based education system to one that enables our children today to boost their cognitive and higher order thinking skills, we are ensuring that our nation is future-proof and possesses a workforce that is agile and flexible as the next generation is able to build up their core skills when it matters most.
The 4W1H, which is the base of the Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), needs to be amplified in order for higher order thinking skills to be inculcated within our primary school students. This will allow them to sharpen their creative aptitude, critical thinking, writing and presentation skills to increase their confidence.
Focus on aptitude in skills
Aside from the above, the school-based assessment that will take place should focus on our primary school students’ aptitude in skills like problem-solving, decision-making, memory, sequencing, emotional self-regulation and much more. The assessment should be done when the students are in standards 4 – 6 (aged between 10 and 12) to ensure optimal take-up and using systems that are based on high technology. We can’t escape the fact that that is the future and should incorporate technology into education right from the level of kindergarten or Standard 1.
Before we develop these assessments, though, we should reflect on the purpose of primary education in our nation. What is it that we want students to acquire? What level of depth do we want them to have? How can we create a thirst in them to learn more?
Lessons should be fun and stimulate the student’s interest to learn, across the divide and to the level that they want to learn.
To achieve this, teachers need to be retrained to present subjects in an engaging manner. By adopting the personalised and experiential learning approach, we can build up a primary education model that is more holistic, engaging and personalised to the learner’s needs.
Through this customised teaching and learning approach, aided by assistive tools and management, our primary school children will be able to develop their core skills and thrive in their education.
Teachers will also be able to curate content that is unique to Malaysia and aid in the holistic development of primary school learners, which will set them in good stead for their subsequent education levels.
Parents are an important stakeholder too and should be included as part of the child’s education journey. That way, parents are able to appreciate the new way of teaching, and the different tools and facilities that are utilised for teaching.
Long assessment observation
Getting high grades should be a natural progression, rather than a stressful experience. Students can get A’s, not through a one-shot examination but through long assessment observation that promotes their participation and development of knowledge, creativity and innovation concurrently. The most important thing is that students enjoy learning and are able to develop an understanding related to the subject as well as unleash their creativity and become more innovation-oriented.
It is still dawn for us in this area. There needs to be more research on teaching and learning for the new era that is IR4.0, digital learning, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. We can incorporate the findings as we progress but we need to get started.
Let us never forget that the purpose of educating people is for social living. The more of our population can attain a quality education, the better it is for our nation in the long run. A high-quality education system allows our leaders of tomorrow to have future-proof skills and competencies to adapt to market demands.
Professor Dr Ahmad Ismail FASc is a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.