Why the need to bring back UPSR exam
Published on: Sunday, January 08, 2023
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Pic by Cikgu Zamrud (For Illustration Purpose Only)
THE education minister is being urged to revive the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3) examinations. The discourse invariably touches on the merits and demerits of having public examinations. 

Perhaps a safe conclusion is this: examinations are a necessary evil. The proposal to revive the examinations should be looked at from a different perspective — optimal frequency, necessity and practicality. How many examinations should our children go through as they progress from Year One to Form Five? 

With the number of exam candidates increasing every year, how many examinations can the Education Ministry continue to hold nationwide effectively? Sitting the UPSR is a milestone. 

It heralds the end of primary schooling and the beginning of secondary education. It gauges the readiness of students for the next phase of learning. 

It helps secondary school teachers place students in the appropriate class, at least in Form One, so that effective teaching and learning can take place.

As secondary teaching and learning differs a lot from the primary phase, the “entry point” of students has to be taken into account by teachers. The UPSR provides the indicators; it satisfies an important need. Therefore, it should prevail and be revived. The PT3, on the other hand, is one examination too many. 

Once a student acquires a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate, the PT3 becomes a mere piece of paper.

Some may argue that we need PT3 to filter students into technical or vocational streams and fully residential schools. For this, a simpler entrance examination can be held for aspiring candidates. 

There is no need to involve the entire Form Three student population. Others may argue that we need PT3 to stream students into arts and science classes in Form Four. 

Again, we may be feeding an assumed necessity.

It is time we have a single stream for all fourth and fifth formers. They should be exposed to a general and broader curriculum rather than a compartmentalised one. There is no need to specialise so early. Streaming them into arts and science should be done only later, in Form Six. 

The general stream can offer a science subject that teaches much more than what present arts students are learning. At the same time, the subject would be spared the higher-learning preparatory materials that are now taught to science students.

This way, everybody learns enough of science. And there is still teaching-learning time left for the pursuit of other subjects. With the general stream in place, we will have no need for the PT3 examination. In addition, without the load of the PT3, the Examinations Syndicate can focus on the SPM examination, which can be held entirely during the year-end holidays.

There is no need to impinge on schooling days like now. Schools would be spared the annual bane of heavy absenteeism after the PT3 examination.


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