Dan Brown's Open Letter To Educators
Two weeks ago, when I was in Poland, I attended the Education Leaders Forum at Warsaw’s Olympic Centre, which was held in conjunction with Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2010 which I was there to cover. Truth be told, I didn’t pay much attention at the forum (bureaucratic speeches are b.o.r.i.n.g.).
However, there was one video that was shown early on that really got my attention. It was a video posted by YouTube star Dan Brown (no, not the guy who wrote Da Vinci Code) and it was an open “letter” to educators around the world. The photo below (taken using a Cyber-shot TX5) was from where I was sleeping, er, hiding sitting at the back of the forum, while the video was showing.
I tweeted about it then, and meant to share the video with you guys, but never got to blog about it before. I was going to post it yesterday – I usually upload interesting videos (to me) on here on Mondays) – but got caught up with work. However, I woke up today to the article headlined below in the New Straits Times and knew I just had to blog about it today.
The headline read:
Exam talks begin
Basically, the Ministry of Education is holding round-table sessions to gather feedback on whether or not to do away with the UPSR and PMR examinations in schools. I have to admit that when I first heard about it a month ago, I was wondering what the Government was thinking. Then I realised that this might be a good thing – we are too exam focused, which leads us to becoming too results-oriented (I blogged about this last year as well).
I guess the biggest argument for the abolishing of the two exams is that they basically serve little purpose. Granted, PMR helps decide if a student is fit for a particular stream but I think there are other ways to address this. I remember when I was younger wondering what the point of me working so hard for my UPSR (okay lah, I didn’t try so hard but I still had to put in a little bit of effort) because when I went into Form 1, I had a literally illiterate classmate (no way he passed ANY of his UPSR subjects).
I think assessment examinations – without the whole “prestige” of getting a certificate – are a good way to find out the aptitude of a particular student. I rather there be certain “tests” (as opposed to “exams”) which will help decide if a student will be able to survive a particular stream. This way, maybe the mindset that students need to be in the Science Stream (this mindset is as much in parents as it is in students) to be considered a good student.
I was in the Science Stream in Form 4 (don’t ask me how I made it there, I didn’t do too well in PMR but I guess I did well enough) for a total of two weeks before I decided that it wasn’t for me. Good thing I had understanding parents (well, my parents were the one cajoling me to quit Science, and I was hesitant at first because I was finally a “good” student) who allowed me to switch when I decided that I wasn’t cut out for Add Maths and Chemistry.
I do wish that I didn’t put myself through that. And to think that I was in school at a time when students weren’t going crazy taking 12 to 20 subjects for SPM!
Anyway, this post isn’t about me. I’ve always been an advocate of holistic education and one that doesn’t require memorising, but more to do with understanding of concepts, encouraging critical thinking and exploring creativity.
Which is why I want to share this video by Dan Brown with you guys. Some of the things he say is in the context of the country he lives in but I think it’s worth watching anyway. There will be more roundtable sessions about the UPSR and PMR (although I personally wish they would abolish the system, and then have round-table sessions to decide what is the next step. At the moment, it just seems like they will have sessions and nothing will happen and then it will be a waste of time, money and well, hope).
But that is the way things are at the moment. My wish is that whoever is going into the sessions would watch this before heading there.
11.18pm Malaysian time (+8 GMT)