By Hisham Hamzah
Like today's student, I've probably said this myself when I was their age. I hate exams. And now that the exam season is upon us, twitter, FB and blogs are alight with such sentiments and comments.
But now, as a teacher, shouldn't I love/like exams? After all, when I was a student that was what I thought. The teachers must love exams! Why wouldn't they if they are always giving so much emphasis on it?
But the truth is I do hate exams, but for different reasons. I don't hate setting papers and grading them, those are pretty straight forward tasks although a tad tedious at times. I don't find them a useful assessment tool.
I tweeted a few days ago "A few pages of questions doesn't give me a clear idea of whether you are smart or not, whether you get it or not". As I set papers for testing, I have to make choices from which part of the syllabus should I pick from, because I obviously cannot test every single chapter/topic/concept. The "logic" is that, since the student doesn't know what would be tested, the student should study EVERYTHING in order to have a chance at passing the paper. So from here, the exam itself is suppose to "force" learning.
To me, that is the weakness right there, how can you force learning?
Learning must stem from curiosity, a thirst to find out more and more, and that must originate from the student. My struggle is to find as many ways as I can to bring out that curiosity in every single one of my students. I don't think I have succeeded completely, and I'm constantly making mistakes but I have a strong feeling that this is a struggle that I am suppose to go through as a teacher, and there are far greater teachers at Cempaka who have gone through this struggle, year after year, with amazing stamina, dedication and commitment. I cannot bring myself to consider them colleagues, they will forever be my teachers.
At this point I must comment on how I felt when my first class graduated last year, and the feeling I had. It dawned on me, my former teachers who are still going strong in Cempaka have had this feeling every year since my time. People ask why be a teacher... hell... why not! It is addictive. I kind of get it when the younger players at United say they want to emulate the careers of Scholes and Giggs now.
Returning to the topic of this post, why I hate exams, I feel that it puts huge pressure on students that does not proportionally reflect the student's true capability, intellect and most important, curiosity.
Of course, to simply disband traditional examinations might be greeted with huge outcry. There is no standardised way of assessment, a benchmark to compare our students to, which can be used for entry to higher learning institutions. Well, to that I respond, why would you want standardised testing if it only produces standardised products(students) that would be completely useless in a future economy that will thrive on innovation, creativity and, yes, curiosity.
Solutions then? What can we do? How can we have an assessment based system that challenges our students much like the real world would? Is that not the true assessment we should be aspiring for? Instead of dumping students into the real world, we need to slowly expose them to its challenges and demands, develop skills of thinking critically, expanding their creative capabilities and starting that thirst for new knowledge, that curiosity, that will drive their own learning.
But firstly we must understand one thing, failure is inevitable, we will not get it right the first time. But we need to be open to new things, we need to have the resources to pursue new ideas and innovations, utilize new technology, reach others on a global scale, and we must be allowed to fail while doing so. Without failure, there is no success.
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By @HishamHamzah, first published here.
Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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