The End of PT3 Exam

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This year, 2022 marks the exit of PT3 from the life of any secondary student in Malaysia. That’s the most recent exam to bite the bullet. As of now, students in Malaysia will only sit for one major exam in their whole schooling life – Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). It will remain the sole centralised examination for Malaysian kids who go through the national education system from this year on.

End of PT3 Exam

Was the PT3 Exam’s demise expected?

The PT3 exam is the latest centralised examination to exit the national assessment system. This, coming after the abolishment of Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) in 2021. The writing actually has been on the wall for some time about the usefulness of exams (or the lack them) and the pandemic has hastened its demise.

What is PT3 exam?
Form 3 Assessment (PT3) is a Center for Assessment (PP) component in School Based Assessment (PBS). PT3 candidate is a Form 3 student in the school who follows the national curriculum. PT3 is administered by the school based on equivalent scoring instruments and guides provided by the Examination Board.
Source: MyGov – The Government of Malaysia

For as long as I can remember exams have always been the focal point of any Malaysian student’s life. Exams are touted to be the ultimate tool to evaluate a student’s ability to learn and became the measure of which everything was based on. However, the last 2 decades have seen an overemphasis on exams. We saw a preoccupation of parents to ensure that their children could do well in the exams. The race for A scores have created limited cocoons of learning, in the process, stifling the young minds.

School used to be fun with lots of co-curricular activities to fill a student’s life. However, over the decades, as we became obsessed with grades, prep/tuition classes took over a student’s life. Japan with the juku and Korea with its hagwon are well-known are examples of how intense we have become with grades. In Malaysia and Singapore, after school tuition classes often fill up a student’s time. When I was a student, it was not uncommon to know of friends who attended up to 9 tuition classes per week. It has never failed to amaze me how these friends of mine had time for anything else with all those tuition classes.

Hence, I think abolishing the PT3 exam is a move in the right direction. Exams are rigid. The way our exams have been carried out, mostly show how well a student is able to regurgitate the facts that they have learned. Yet, today’s work place is constantly evolving. Technology is playing a very prominent role in reshaping work. What used to be thought of as a change in a distant future is now at our doorstep. Hence, the learning that takes place must also undergo some modifications to meet the new challenge.

Will abolishing PT3 exam enable our schools to produce future ready kids?

While ditching exams is the right step, we are still lacking in trying to get our young ready to embrace the dynamics of the future.

First, much of what goes on in a Malaysian school is rather 20th century still. The old ‘chalk and talk’ method still rules in many schools. Projectors and smart televisions are still not common features in our schools. This brings to mind the next question. While the kids’ minds are being reshaped by 21st century tools and connectivity, the physical school is still very much in the 20th century. Classrooms are still hot and stuffy. The amenities to propel teaching and learning to catch up with 21st century pace are still very lacking.

Can we engage our young with the old way?

I believe the answer is no. We can no longer engage a generation brought up with the mobile screen as their staple with just ‘chalk and talk’. Just using ‘chalk and talk’ also means a lack of diversity of media which are required to engage kids. Many school heads still do not make equipping classrooms with the basic multimedia tools a priority, focussing instead, on the methods from past that they were used to.

Next, teachers who have been trained and conditioned by the expectations of an exam-based system are finding it hard to do a reset in their teaching methodologies. The years of relying on rote learning and drilling have made many teachers turn to workbooks as their main teaching resource. Many of my mom’s students talk about their classes as a session where teachers make them do the exercises in the workbooks and then dishing out answers. There aren’t many discussions that challenge the minds to rise above the ordinary.

These kids aren’t paying much attention in class because they say it is a no brainer to do so when the answers are just at the back of the same workbooks. Many students become bored or disinterested as a result, because they cannot see relevance of such learning. To change this will require effort. Although mindsets can be changed, but they require time. Reset buttons such as this are often hard to execute. Not only that, but the years of such drilling also have several other implications. So, it is good that PT3 exam is out.

Teachers have forgotten the art of teaching

Teaching is an art. Every kid is an individual with different needs. A teacher’s role is very unique because while he/she has an audience of around 30 students, there is a need to remember their individuality. The teachers need to reach out to these individuals who has a mind of their own their own, make learning fun, convince them that there are many reasons for them to be lifelong learners and so on. However, the chase for grades have made all these ‘hard to have commodities’ mainly because many teachers have forgotten how to do it.

The art of teaching very often would involve weaving stories into the lesson of the day. Stories are great tools to teach. This art got lost in the chase for grades. As a result, lessons in a classroom have become dry. Engaging students purely on content of a subject is not something that happens easily. Many teachers have forgotten to be good story tellers. Many kids have forgotten how stories used to inspire them to be better or more curious.

Teachers are bogged down with paperwork too. The obsession with paperwork has caused teachers untold hours of stress and taken away the minds of the teachers from their main job, which is teaching. Documentation has caused paperwork to pile. Teachers are often chased by their superiors for documentations. And this is one of the reasons that has caused teachers to lose their focus too. How can you expect teachers to be focused on creating content for their classroom teaching when they have so many other reports to file?

Make way for the new assessment – Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah or Classroom Assessment

There has been a lot of talk about how the Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS) or Pentaksiran Bilik Darjah (PBD) will take over the role of exams in ensuring that students get the best learning experience. However, even though this system has been in place since 2011, its implementation has not quite lived up to its noble intentions. Claimed interventions from Education Departments to increase students’ grades are among some complaints which the teachers have claimed to be demotivating factors.

Classroom assessments are good. A lot of school time is wasted on tests and exams each year. That on its own is good enough reason to boot out the PT3 Exam. Classroom assessments allow weaker kids to take their time to build their skills. It enables teachers to know their students’ abilities better. However, implementation of it is still far from perfect. A lot of shortcomings need to be addressed for this system to work effectively.

With that in mind, many parents still feel that exams are the way to go. For them, they feel that at least their kids will be putting in some hours of learning because of the exams. Yet, with everything changing so fast around us, I don’t think the traditional exams as we know will prepare us to meet the dynamics of the changing world.

So how about you? Do you think abolishing the PT3 exam was a right move?

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