Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tipping the exam scales


With the SPM exam just around the corner, tuition centres are offering instensive classes that provide tips on how to spot questions, writes JENNIFER GOMEZ

AS government examinations draw near, tuition centres provide extra tutorials on how to answer questions, with tips on questions that may appear.

All for a fee, of course.

Students, afraid to miss out on anything that might get them their As, pester their parents to send them to these tutorials and seminars offering, among others, spotted questions.

Parents are puzzled, wondering why the syllabus wasn't covered during regular tutorials.

Also, they are inundated with SMSes from these centres stressing the importance of these additional classes and workshops.

In addition, their children don't want to lose out to friends who have signed up for them, too.

This is the scenario faced by urban parents and their children in the race to obtain As, be it for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations.

Teachers and parents appear to agree on this issue with the SPM examination just around the corner.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng was against students being too reliant on last-minute examination tips offered for a fee. She said students should not be spoon-fed.

Lok said these tipsters were not doing anything positive to help students prepare for examinations in a wholesome manner.

"They are giving students false hope.

"With such tips, students focus their efforts on spotted questions and they do not go through the whole syllabus."

But her hands are tied for now, that is, until someone makes a formal complaint.

Lok said: "Some teachers say that this is not a healthy practice. Some even suspect that these tips are being obtained through not-so-legitimate means but no one has made an issue of it."

Teacher P.S. Han, however, said that the availability of these tips for a fee was a supply-and-demand issue.

"There's a demand for them because our examination system is focused on getting As. So, it's a business opportunity to be sei-zed."

However, Han is against his children seeking these tips.

"When I was in school, my teacher told me that his job was to educate me and that was it. It was my responsibility to prepare for my examinations.

"That is the principle I live by as a teacher myself today."

Han, who sets his school examination papers, has made it a habit of late not to distribute his questions to other teachers. "It's safest just with me."

He said that the idea of glorifying those who got multiple As was flawed.

"Students in good urban schools are expected to get the As.

"What's so great about them? They have good schooling and private tutors.

"What about the student in a remote area in Sabah, for instance, who has to walk for miles to school and yet passed his examination?

"In that sense, the media is also wrong to focus on the top scorers when results are announced."

Mercy Almeida, a secondary school teacher, tried to convince her son, who will be sitting his SPM examination, and daughter, who sat for PMR examination recently, not to be too reliant on intensive tuition classes and tips.

"I told them to just keep up with what they learn in school and revise at home. They are also going for tuition.

"But my daughter went to the extent of saying to me that if I didn't allow her to go for these additional sessions, she might fail her examination," said Almeida, troubled by the whole affair.

She said it all started with her daughter's tuition centre offering intensive classes for an additional fee when it got closer to the PMR examination.

"They forced the students to go for the intensive classes, saying that it was necessary if they wanted to do well.

"What I didn't like was that the tutors who were teaching the regular classes were the same ones teaching the intensive classes. Why didn't they cover everything in the regular classes?

"On top of that, we get inundated with SMSes about these intensive classes, so the students felt that they might lose out if they didn't attend."

Despite trying to reason with her daughter, the latter insisted on going, saying that her friends had signed up for it.

Almeida had less energy to put up an argument with her son, who is also attending these special classes, and has signed up for an examination tips seminar on Nov 1 and 2.

She said that 90 per cent of students in urban centres were attracted to these seminars and packages offering tips.

She added that even the poorer children were taken up by these offers.

"We conduct extra classes for poor students who cannot catch up to bring them up to par and instil confidence in them to face their examinations, but they also want to go for extra classes."

D.F. Fernandez, a teacher in Sitiawan, said, however, that the trend had not caught on in smaller towns.

"There was a seminar here two weeks ago on examinations tips and only about 20 students from my school went."

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