Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Exam offers troubling peek into school attitude

I SIGH with resignation as I write this letter. For the past few days, my daughter has been distracted and subdued.The school examinations have just ended and her usual celebratory mood is clearly absent.

I found out that half her classmates in this top, all-girls' school had flunked mathematics. Another class managed fourpasses. I have not seen the paper. Nor do I know if my daughter has passed. All I know is this: She studied veryhard, prepared herself well, especially for maths; she was determined and motivated to excel.

For any parent, that's all that matters: a self-motivated child who is willing, diligent and conscientious.

Regardless of her marks, I am disheartened that the school set an overly challenging paper which bore suchatrocious results, that the matter was raised as an issue during the parent support group meeting.

Please spare me the usual 'it was challenging but we expect the girls to manage it well', or 'this is to make the girls buckup for PSLE'. These garden-variety remarks reflect a school's way of shifting blame onto the pupils and to pressureparents to get additional tutorial help for their children.

Surely if the paper was challenging, the maths teachers should have prepared their pupils better. Such poor results mustalso put the ability of the maths teachers in doubt.

This paper affected my daughter's desire to study hard, her creativity and her self-confidence.

As an active parent who works as a school facilitator to support the parenting programmes of the Ministry ofCommunity Development, Youth and Sports, I believe in reaching out to as many families as possible. But, I findmyself asking now: 'Why bother?'

This is not about a frantic parent who is hurt because her daughter has suffered a setback. It was, after all, only amaths paper.

This is about the attitude of a school, school leadership and teachers. It is about an education system, which, in a bid tofuel an extreme race to excel in academic achievement, douses the spark and enthusiasm of learning.

I appeal to the Ministry of Education to compare the disparity between the simplicity of published primary mathstextbooks and worksheets with the difficulty of exam papers set by schools, if my daughter's school is any yardstick.The disparity is unrealistic, places an unfair burden on pupils and parents, and may end up making a mockery of the education system.

Straits Times, The (Singapore) - Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Author: Jessica Chong (Ms)

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