THE Education Ministry’s decision to not compare states and schools when announcing the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results on Nov 23 is laudable. There was no mentions of which states or schools had the most straight As, and the list of top scorers was also not an item at the press conference. Instead, Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin focused on the Primary School Assessment Report (PSSR).
PSSR is a holistic evaluation method that incorporates other competencies besides pupils’ performance in UPSR. Pupils were also evaluated on their involvement in sports and physical and co-curricular activities. All these, including classroom evaluation and psychometric reports, provide us with a better assessment of pupils.
For example, pupils were evaluated on their fitness through the body mass index (BMI) and participation in sports, while classroom evaluation comprised assessment on learning and about learning.
The psychometric evaluation looks at pupils’ psychological traits, natural abilities in music, linguistic skills and mathematical logic. It is understandable that the ministry is giving this more emphasis as it provides a clearer picture of the pupils’ overall potential. It is the way forward, as it complements the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3), which also has school assessments and psychometric reports.
Educators have for a long time been interested in psychometric assessments for pupils. Educators, along with decision makers in related agencies, used the input to find ways to make studying and learning more meaningful for students. As a result, education, especially at the higher level, has become broad based, with universities and colleges offering a wide range of courses to not only meet the needs of industries or ensure their survival, but to also provide options based on students’ interests and strengths.
As it measures students’ aptitude, the psychometric assessment is useful in helping students determine the most suitable academic courses by matching their personality profile, including their preferred lifestyle, with their ideal field of study and career.
Students can make better sense of this situation with the help of counsellors or private education consultants to plan academic progression that may help them get ideal jobs.
Interest in psychometric evaluation is also widespread at the workplace. In job interviews, employers conduct similar assessments to evaluate candidates’ competency and personality to see how they will fit in the organisation. The assessment can be tailor-made to provide specific and targeted goals.
In the academic field, the outcomes of psychometric tests have also been used to optimise students’ potential.
A good example at the secondary level is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). TVET includes formal, non-formal and informal learning that prepare young people with knowledge and specific skills.
To underscore that TVET is a priority, the government proposed an allocation of RM4.9 billion for next year to implement the TVET Malaysia Master Plan, including providing 100 TVET Excellent Students Scholarships worth RM4.5 million.
The plan will be streamlined by the Human Resources Ministry with other ministries involved in TVET, such as the Higher Education Ministry and Education Ministry.
There is another example to show that outcomes of psychometric assessments have not gone to waste. The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry several months ago launched psychometric testing for six of its agencies to improve the integrity and effectiveness of its delivery system.
Back to the UPSR results. Of the 443,794 candidates who sat the examination this year, 8,958 scored all As, compared with 4,896 last year. The figure represents an increase of almost 100 per cent and is in no way a minor achievement. But, the statistic is only part of a bigger picture that the Education Ministry is re-emphasising: the PSSR.
With the change in perspective, hopefully, Malaysians will now shift away from the exam-oriented mentality. And, to ensure a significant transition, residential schools, colleges, universities and employers must walk the talk. They must also acknowledge the importance of non-academic credentials in enrolment and recruitment exercises.
If residential schools remain adamant that academic results are key prerequisites, parents will continue to focus on their children’s academic abilities and less on others. If schools focus on keeping students’ academic records unblemished, parents will continue to request bundles of strong As from their kids.
Many parents will choose to remain “old school” when it comes to children’s education unless the system after school allows for flexibility. This will help them make sense of what the fuss is about.
WAN NORLIZA WAN MUSTAPHA is a former associate professor at the Language of Academy Studies, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam