What is the hottest educational issue in the country now? The abolition of Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS). A group of in service teachers are determined to have this strike off at all costs that they have planned a demonstration on 22nd February 2014. Follow their activities on Facebook here. Many of my colleagues have sent me the link and wanted me to 'support' the act. I have not done anything yet up to date.
Every since the uproar of this issue, I received numerous coutesy calls, from educators and non-educators. And with the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP)'s latest official claim that the union is not in favour of the implemetation of PBS at all, it seems that every teacher is advocating the abolition of the alternative assessment.
However, I think most teachers have forgotten that only slightly 5 years ago, they were the same group of people that questioned the efficiency of a centralised public examination. Much debates were heard about how the national education is focused on producing Grade A students that are basically non-functional. By the year 2007, the matter just spinned out of control with some students aiming to achieve a straight 20 As in public examination, all in the name of securing a fully sponsored scholarship or being the creme a la creme. Students were trained to be learning machine that reproduced whatever that was fed to them in the examination. I have no second opinion about this, because during my years of service, I have been managing examination classes. To be frank, we teachers are merely the 'manufacturers' of As. We drilled and prepared students for public examination, if that is the only thing that determines a student's worth within the system. We strategized and planned.
The Ministry then took some steps in defining the A grade more meticulously. Back then, a top level Grade A+ was created to segregate the really excellent students from those good students. Here is my view of the increasing number of As in the national public examination. First of all, we cannot deny that students nowadays are much, much more intelligent. They have various sources to learn. I have observed that in every newly released apps, you will see that these students are the pioneer users. They are the trend setters. So why can't we accept the fact and rethink the suitability of the curriculum in this age instead. The current Integrated Curriculum (KBSM) was drafted way back in 1989 based on our National Education Philosophy and have been in used since then. We may just have to revise the curriculum, not because it is not good enough, it is just getting obsolete. If students are moving at the pace of a trend setter, what then is the role of us as an educator? We cannot hold dearly to the NEP as our ultimate bible.
Way back in 2005, our country strives to overcome this matter. An education blueprint was drafted with transformation in mind. For 2006 – 2010, alternative assessment was the core of the Educational Transformation Program. The Ministry was determined to come up with a plan that assess the students in a more holistic manner, while retaining their creativity and individuality. I was enthusisatic with the idea, as it is always my dream to be able to assess a student based on his/her portfolio rather than just a piece of certification.
What saddens me the most is neither the implementation of this and that policy, nor the change and transformation. What frustrates me is the insubstantial passion of the Ministry. Today, the implementation of PBS is not without flaws. Education is never instant gratification. It is long term investment. Along the way, we need to take risk, have a change and breakaway like Kelly Clarkson. Today, if the group of teachers are striving to have PBS patched up, I will have no second thought in pressing the 'like' button. The implementation of PBS has given back students the autonomy and responsibilty to learn, at least in my classrooms. If teachers argue that students are not doing so, then I suggest a closer look at how these teachers had briefed their students about the importance of learning and school based assessments. My experience tells me that, even with the most playful students, if you allow the idea of having a portfolio to define who the student truly is, they will do it. Of course, there will be time they are lazy and sluggish. And I often think, that is our obligation. That is the time why education in the world still needs teachers. We are there to set an example and be a role model, to tell them that, 'Look, prove to me you have learned something in your 10 years in school'.
And today, because of the increasing resistance, the Ministry is calling a halt of the implementation of the PBS. Of course, I don't deny that political factor may have a minor share in shaping this decision but it is really an irrational move to discard and abort the mission. The actual implementation of the policy is 3 years. Same goes to The Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), the Ministry aborted the mission after 6 years of implementation. Their arguments are based on the public examination results of the first pioneer batch of students. If we can allow KBSM (Secondary School Integrated Curriculum) to thrive for 25 years (since 1989), what is holding us back in sustaining our transformation now?
The way the Ministry that can't hold their stand is really something unwise. If they keep swaying and changing their minds due to some defiant voices, they are just gambling our children's future away.