As a primary school teacher with over 27 years of experience, it brings much joy for me to hear that the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) has been shelved. It is a move that is long overdue.
Over the years, I have seen the gradual but unmistakable shift in parents’ attitudes towards the Standard Six examination. For many of them, the exam is the be-all, end-all. As a result, many parents unnecessarily pressure their children to perform well in the exam.
In other words, the parents are projecting their desires and ideas onto the minds of 12-year-olds. This is particularly telling as the exam nears, usually held around September. They will sign up their kids for “UPSR camps”, some of which are rah-rah sessions or money-making scams for organisers camouflaged as exam preparatory “seminars”.
These are wrong on two counts: it sends the wrong message to our children that grades are the be-all, end-all and it robs children of the joy of studying. Do we honestly want our children to be “zombies” who ace exams by rote learning? Isn’t it more important for children at that age to develop social skills, or heighten their sense of curiosity that adds joy to what learning is all about?
Over the years I have seen how my students’ key developmental skills have been impeded by the emphasis on UPSR. When speaking, they don’t make eye contact, they don’t speak confidently, they are no longer as articulate as their seniors used to be and their interests in extracurricular activities have dimmed.
While the availability of gadgets like handphones or tablets is partly to blame, the over-emphasis on exams is another reason. Imagine many SJKCs used to hold extra classes after official hours ended for Year Six students. And many students go for private tutoring after that. The physical, mental and emotional exhaustion for these kids who ought to be enjoying life can be crippling.
I am not saying that public examinations are not important. They are an integral part of education but there is no need to subject our children to unnecessary burden and stress that will impede their personal growth.
Exams like SPM are still necessary. But for now, abolishing the UPSR is the right move and kudos to the education ministry for that!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.