Recently I read an article claiming that a well-known professor saying that Chinese vernacular primary schools are teaching students based on memorisation and regurgitation of facts , and are producing “copycat” students. I as a student of the Chinese vernacular schooling system myself felt strongly for this too.
My experiences in an urban primary – memorising full examples of essays whether in Chinese, Malay or English. Students are encouraged, or rather forced to memorise essay structures for all essays, although this did not happen to me it happened to my younger sister who studies in a top class. UPSR trials are way more frequent than other schools, showing an exam-based mentality in the administration.
However, it’s unfair to quote the Chinese schools only, because it involves the whole education system of Malaysia. Don’t tell me that I’m telling lies – I just sat for my SPM Moral paper yesterday which requires me to memorise 32 moral values by heart, word-by-word. Not forgetting the literature component in Malay and English and Chinese idioms. Paper 3 of the Science subjects, Biology, Chemistry and Physics requires us to memorise experiments exactly and write it out in the exam. Ironically the question ask us to “design an experiment”. Moral and Civics are failures of our curriculum – failing to educate students properly on real morality and civic-consciousness. We have an exam-based, memorisation-centred education curriculum.
The effects are widespread, hard-hitting and deadly to our future. I personally observed fellow students tensioned over an increase of “pendapat” (opinion) questions in the exam, as opinions cannot be memorised. Coupled with horror stories of exam markers adhering too much to the marking scheme provided and mark logic answers wrong, this discourages creative thinking in students and future world leaders.
“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”, as quoted by William Butler Yeats, shows what our education should look like. Young students should be encouraged to explore the world and learn more about it than following by facts on books every time. They should learn how to apply their knowledge in solving real-life problems. Thinking out of the box is necessary to compete in a increasingly challenging world, and we should be nurtured to do this from young. We should not just absorb knowledge, but also integrate them with the environment to gain a deeper understanding on what are we learning.
In conclusion, we must admit that our curriculum is flawed and there is space for more improvements. Decentralising our system from exam-focusing and memorisation, encouraging innovation and creativity, getting students involved in intellectual debates, written, orally or otherwise…
Too much change is required. We need a revolution.