Best Ever 2020 SPM Results?

Best ever SPM results in 5 years was a surprise to everyone when it was announced in June this year. It seemed like the 2020 SPM cohort overcame huge obstacles and produced results better than any cohort in the last 5 years. Here is the detailed analysis from the Ministry of Education.


Best Ever SPM, is It Possible?

My take on this issue. I think the improvement in the results is believable for a few reasons. Contrary to the perceptions that going online is detrimental to the students’ learning, I think it had the opposite effect. The recent SPM being the best ever results in 5 years is actually quite possible for the following reasons.

Reason 1: Less travelling

For a long time, many of us while aware that school wastes a lot of time, choose to ignore that because of the perceived general good that comes from attending school. Well, I think one of the things that going online did was it removed most of those wasted time. Kids need not travel to school. For some that is a commute that might total over 2 hours daily. That means they get more sleep and less stress.

Kids generally are better primed too because they are less likely to go hungry. And the best part is, in between classes, they actually get to take short breaks in a more familiar and comfortable environment. You can even take a 10-minute shut eye.

Reason 2: Less distractions

Next, less distractions. The pandemic has removed lots of the distractions of co-curricular activities from the kids’ schedule. My own experience of attending those enforced co-curricular activities in schools can be summed up as this: mostly a waste of time.

Let’s face it, you have the whole school staying back, supposedly divided into their own respective co-curricular activities. How many actually get to play badminton if there are 100 students waiting by the court during that 1.5 hours of prescribed and enforced co-curricular time? Most of the kids just loiter or sit around. All these were removed during the online classes. More time! 

Reason 3: More teacher presence

Another reason for the improvement of SPM results can be attributed to teachers have to be ‘in the class’ during the online sessions. Talk to your kids and you will find that many teachers enter the physical class late or don’t at all. Sometimes as many as 50 percent of the teachers are not in class for a day, due to various reasons. With online classes, such kinds of abstenteeisms have been greatly reduced. We now have more presence than before. There are less teachers on sick leave too.

Reason 4: More independence

Moving on, online classes gives freedom to kids who are independent. Given the fact that many still believe that our kids need to attend school, online lessons provide an opportunity to be absent while being present. Yup! You just need to log on, and then you can use that same time to do your own learning, if you are that sort of student. Many students do that.

When asked why, usually it’s because they have found other better online alternatives. Face it Malaysian teachers, your competition has gone way beyond our shores. A kid I know can now say she has realised that her teachers are actually not teaching certain topics right. 

Reason 5: Less unhealthy social influence

And finally, online lessons means kids are more isolated. Many have expressed worries that this might be bad for their social development. Well, there is this other angle too. Many kids are now shielded from unhealthy influences too. And if the SPM results is anything to go by, it looks like going online might actually have its role too. Kids have less of teenager angst from the reduced face-to-face mingling that takes place. Physical and verbal assaults (the face-to-face kind) have practically been reduced to levels not seen before. 

Old problem in new norm

I think we have been too over focussed on the group of students who even during normal times were students who would have just done as badly academically. These are students whom our current academic based education system is ill-equipped to handle. I watched my mom teach during these past few months that I have worked from home. She is a stickler to data collection and I have seen how she carries out her Classroom Assessment program. She meticulously records the scores of every student who completed her classroom assessments.

What gives?

And so I sat down with her one day to listen to her analysis. Bear in mind that students are placed on a range of 6 bands for their work. Band 6 is the highest level of mastery. She said her data showed that, those who have done well are the same students who would diligently do their work even when they had physical classes.

The lot who are now in Band 1 and Band 2 are the students who would not do their work. They would move somewhat if reminded and reprimanded. But beyond that, it is a no go where work was concerned for them. Going by the current situation, I think not many teachers actually do detailed marking like her now. So I can imagine how many students will get away with not doing their work. 

It’s been a year since she started keeping records of students’ work online. And her conclusion is, data seems to point to a similar outcome where her group of students are concerned. She did caution me that there are places where gadgets and connectivity are issues. But after a year, if these issues are still there, it also implies that the authorities have failed too.

Many feel that the 2020 SPM results are not believable. Who can blame them? There are many quarters who allege that the passing marks are really low. Some claim that certain years they run in single digits. The quality of straight As students are being questioned too.

There are systemic problems no doubt but I wonder too, if exams are the only reliable measure of a person’s ability. I think skills are what’s needed but unfortunately many of the learning of such skills are linked to literacy. Literacy in the tools such as languages and thinking skills. 

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