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Remove blinkers in education system to produce thinking leaders

Teach them ethical and moral values

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We need to produce Malaysian who are able to think independently and intelligently instead of moronic yes men, writes Khong Kah Yeong.

I was drawn to the article “Education Reset” by Teo Chuen Tick, particularly his comment on bureaucrats in the education service being more interested in form rather than substance.

That reminds me of what my grand-daughter is experiencing and has been complaining to me almost every other day.

It appears that to score well in the moral education paper the class had to memorise certain values as listed in their text book and reproduce them word for word in a defined format as answers to the questions in their tests. Any variation or attempt to use they own words for the same purpose would be rejected and penalised accordingly.

To me, that surely is not nurturing young minds to think for themselves and preparing them to be independent for the future.

Another case in point was when their mathematics teacher set them a problem of finding the perimeter of a comma-like shape (like that seen in the centre of the South Korean flag) made up of a big semi-circle connecting to the two ends of an S-shape formed by two smaller circles. They were told that the radius of each of the smaller circle is half that of the big circle.

My grand-daughter whether by intelligence or by intuition, saw that the perimeter of the figure was made up by the semi-circumference of the big circle and the circumference of the small circle and proceeded to work out her answer accordingly.

But when she handed in her work her teacher marked her working as wrong and proceeded to show the class the “correct working” ie:

(1) find the circumference of the big circle and divide it by two,
(2) find the circumference of each of the small circles and divide each of them by two.
(3) finally, add the three answers to obtain the final answer.

I leave it to you to form your own opinion of the teacher.

I think what my grand-daughter experienced was the result of a blinkered view indoctrinated by the blind use of a centralised marking schemes, which are intended to produce a certain uniformity in the marking of answer scripts by a large number of examiners over a period of time.

This has resulted in teachers either afraid or unable to use their discretion to accept answers that are correct and logical but not in their marking scheme. Hence their answer when challenged is nearly always “it’s not in the marking scheme”.

Hopefully the new Minister of Education, Maszlee Malik, will be able to look into this and sweep away such cobwebs and blinkers so that our education system will produce citizens, especially leaders, who are able to think independently and intelligently instead of moronic yes men.

Update: May I thank readers for their comments to my observation, one in particular for agreeing that both the teacher’s and my grand-daughter’s methods of arriving at the perimeter of the comma-shaped figure are correct. In other words, the method set out in the marking scheme is not the only road leading to Rome.

In fact, my simplistic mind, along with definitely limited knowledge of Mathematics, tells me that there are three or maybe more ways of arriving at the answer to that problem.

The first, and I consider the most brilliant, is simply to find the circumference of the big circle and give that as the answer. If it were possible, I would give that student bonus marks for that! It shows high intelligence and a great depth of his knowledge of mathematical concepts.

The second is to find the semi-circumference of the big circle and add that to the circumference of the smaller circle formed by the “S” shape part of the figure.

The third is that shown by the teacher concerned.

From the above, it can be seen that there are more roads to Rome than just that in the marking scheme. Is it fair, therefore, for the teacher, or for that matter anybody else marking answer scripts, to penalise a student for not using the route set out in the marking scheme to arrive at the same and correct answer?

Khong Kah Yeong is an Aliran newsletter subscriber who has some acquaintance with Malaysian schools.

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