PT3 Comes Under The Spotlight In 2014
By Erda Khursyiah Basir
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- This year saw a tide of protests against the School-Based Assessment (SBA) programme by teachers and parents alike, which resulted in a short freeze on its implementation.
While certain shortcomings were ironed out, the performance of the students who sat for the inaugural Form Three Assessment (Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga or PT3) examination was said to be far from satisfactory.
PT3 is a vital component of the SBA, which in turn is part of the government's initiatives to reform the education sector to, among others, create students who could think "critically and creatively", as set out in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.
As PT3 also tests students on their higher-order thinking skills (HOTS), this may have had something to do with them not faring very well in the maiden PT3 examination.
In fact, when the results were released on Dec 22, the Education Ministry chose not to make an official announcement and provide an analysis of the candidates' performance, thus giving rise to speculation that the results were poor.
On Dec 24, Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said his ministry acknowledged that there were weaknesses in the PT3 examination, which replaced the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR), and added that a detailed analysis would be carried out on the new examination format.
PT3 REPLACES PMR
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had in March this year announced that the centralised examination for the third formers would be scrapped and replaced with the PT3.
"We will have a form of evaluation at the school-level. PT3 will be used as the basis to determine the entry of students into Form Four, whether in fully residential schools, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama, MARA Junior Science College, Sekolah Menengah Teknik or Vocational College," said Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister.
However, going by the PT3 results, it is obvious that the Education Ministry has to identify the weaknesses as well as improve the evaluation format.
The number of students who scored straight As in PT3 was lower than the all-A figures usually associated with the PMR.
The drop in the number of top scorers was attributed to the lack of time to prepare for the PT3 and the challenging nature of the questions, especially the oral tests and the ones that required the students to exercise their HOTS.
The PT3 examination system officially started in July, kicking off with a case study instrument for History and Geography from July 1 to 18, where students were required to complete their course work based on the topics given within a stipulated period.
Oral tests for Bahasa Melayu and English were held from Aug 6 to 29 while written tests were held between Oct 13 and 16 for Science, Mathematics, Islamic Studies and Living Skills, as well as Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, Punjabi, Iban and Kadazandusun languages. History and Geography were assessed via assignments, practical tests, projects, field and case studies.
IMPROVING THE SCHOOL-BASED ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
Despite the initial outburst of concern from educators and parents, the SBA was implemented in April after it was put on hold earlier to enable the authorities to address certain shortcomings and make the necessary improvements.
The enhanced SBA did not require teachers to enter their students' performance evaluation data online, as was expected of them previously. Most teachers were up in arms over the data entry task as they had found it very time consuming.
"As a result of the improvements, all the educators have accepted the SBA with an open mind. This is because the enhanced SBA is teacher-friendly and does not burden them too much, thus enabling them to focus on teaching and learning," Idris was quoted as saying earlier this year.
The government introduced the SBA in a bid to transform the examination-oriented system to a holistic assessment system to produce more well-rounded students. It was implemented in 2011, beginning with Primary One pupils. In 2012, the SBA was extended to all Form One classes.
Under the SBA, teachers are required to grade their pupils on each subject based on a six-band spectrum, starting from the First Band , which indicates "understand", to the sixth or highest band, which denotes "exemplary".
Besides the teachers who griped about the extra workload they were saddled with, parents were also unhappy with the new system as they were not clear how their children's performance would be evaluated. Their main concern were the third formers as they comprised the first batch of the SBA's "beneficiaries".
National Union of Teaching Profession Secretary General Lok Yim Pheng had warned that the SBA may be detrimental to students' interests as their teachers may not have enough time to focus on teaching, being bogged down with marking test papers and entering the relevant data into the computer everyday.
Taking the various complaints into account, on Feb 23 this year, the Education Ministry announced that it would defer the implementation of the SBA, pending a review.
On March 18, Muhyiddin announced that the government would go ahead with the implementation of the assessment system, having incorporated some improvements.
Malaysian Examination Board Assistant Director Zaleha Mustafa said based on the feedback the board had received so far in its capacity as the implementing agency, the teachers were generally satisfied with the improved SBA.
UPSR EXAM LEAK
This year's UPSR examination, which was originally scheduled to be held from Sept 9 to 11, was marred when some of the question papers leaked, resulting in all the candidates having to resit the Science, English, Mathematics and Tamil Language papers on Sept 30 and Oct 9.
While the leakage of UPSR papers is not a new issue, this year's affair turned out to be quite serious as it was detected before the examination started.
The fiasco drew much criticism from the public, who questioned the integrity and trustworthiness of the authorities charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the exam papers at every stage, starting from the drafting of the questions to the printing and packing of the papers before they were stored in vaults and despatched to the various examination centres.
In November, two teachers from a Tamil primary school in Nilai pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, to a total of six counts of possessing the 2014 UPSR question papers.
The two were charged under Section 8(1)(c)(iii) of the Official Secrets Act 1972 and, if convicted, they face up to seven years imprisonment.
This year's UPSR results, meanwhile, showed a slight 0.02 point decrease in the Average National Grade (GPN). Explaining that the dip in their performance was not due to the candidates having to resit some of the papers, Idris put it down to the nature of the questions, which also tested the pupils' higher-order thinking skills, saying that they may have found it challenging.
As for the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching had said that its effectiveness would only be evident after three years of implementation.
She said the plan, which was launched in 2013, was still in the process of being implemented and the positive changes would be visible in stages.
The blueprint outlines the government's commitment to transforming Malaysia's education system and equipping students holistically to allow them to succeed in the 21st century. It aims to make Malaysian students knowledgeable, to think critically and creatively, and to have leadership skills.
Yap said the ministry was currently monitoring the blueprint and evaluating its impact on the education system, and was also ready to carry out any review if certain issues warranted attention.
The ministry, she said, was also looking for the best strategies to implement the government's aspirations to bring about a paradigm shift, as highlighted in its blueprint.
"Besides bringing about transformation and innovation in the learning system in schools, the collaboration of parents and the community is also vital to ensure the development of education in a holistic manner," she added.