Tuesday, March 21

PT3 a move in the right direction?


THE results of the first Form Three Assessment – or PT3 as it is known – were announced just before Christmas.

While many students did reasonably well, there were those who were disappointed with their results, citing that they were not given enough time to prepare and were surprised by the sudden change in the format of the examinations.

Unlike the previous examinations, the PT3 requires teachers to continuously assess their students as well as  to record grades and learning outcomes of the students.

The PT3 is designed to produce students who think, rather than memorise what is taught and written in textbooks.  It does sound like the ideal system to encourage students to a higher level of thinking, inculcating analytical skills in them.

But why do so many people seem unhappy with the system?

The thing is parents and students are not unhappy with the system per se.  It was the execution of the system that proved stressful for the students, teachers and parents alike – they were given just three months to prepare for the written exams, not knowing what to prepare for.

The poor execution of the system had left students and teachers being given different written exam formats, even up until a week before the actual assessment.

This is nothing new in Malaysia’s education system.  We have over the years experienced flip-flopping policies, as well as poor planning and execution of education policies which inevitably took a toll on the students.

Many of us who work in corporate settings think that teachers have a good and easy life, with good pay and short working hours.

In reality, teachers too have become victims of our ever tumultuous education system. In the case of the PT3, teachers too had very little time or training to prepare for the change in the assessment format. They had to race through the syllabus, as well as conduct rushed assessments, case studies and written exams due to the last minute changes.

To add on to the stress, teachers are required to key in their students’ grades and assessment online by a given deadline. Imagine the hundreds of students one teacher has to handle!

Topping it all off, sometimes teachers were forced to sit into the wee hours of the day trying to get enter data into the system, which often came to a standstill.

Another thing that Malaysia is known for – setting up online systems that cannot handle the massive traffic and data input.

But is the PT3 such a bad thing? On paper, it seems ideal.

It requires students to tackle questions that require higher order thinking skills. It pushes students to apply what they have learnt, instead of regurgitating their textbooks back on to an answering sheet.

It encourages them to think out of the box, organise their thoughts and produce them in a clear and structured manner.  They are required to elaborate answers with clarity, instead of just shading out multiple choice questions.

An ongoing assessment also enables teachers and students alike to monitor their teaching- learning process. All these point to developing skills necessary to ensure them some level of success in their adult, tertiary education and working lives.

Unfortunately, there are also some parents who still need time to understand the concept behind the PT3. They are more concerned about having it easy for their children to score and were not happy with the high standards set by some teachers.

Again, this reflects the society that we have become – one set on scoring as many As as possible, rather than being set on the learning process and the ability to think. This, unfortunately, shows clearly in the quality of undergraduates and much of the workforce that we have today.

The bottomline is, for once, the Education Ministry seems to be heading in the right direction – namely devising a system that encourages thinking.

Unfortunately, as noble as the intentions are of the PT3 assessment, it has been poorly executed.

Something that is reflective of the thinking skills and abilities of those behind the system.

If the assessment had been thought out systematically (the exact thing that it is trying to achieve from our students) and executed in a well-planned manner, it would have garnered more support from teachers, parents and students alike.

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com