Although PT3 is only one of the levels of assessment in the secondary schooling system, it will be the litmus test for the system to be applied at a higher level.
RESULTS of the recent Form Three Assessment, PT3 (Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga), were the first for students under the new Malaysian Educational Plan (PPPM) which the Government embarked on in 2011.
The seemingly unremarkable results have caused dissatisfaction among some parents, especially when they are compared with that of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) results of previous years.
To compare PT3 with PMR is quite unjustified, as both assessments are different.
While PMR was still mainly an exam-oriented and centralised assessment system, PT3 is based on the new School-Based Assessment (SBA or PBS) framework.
It focuses on the continuous assessment method, emphasises higher order thinking skills and adopts the student-based learning approach.
Thus, the only way to fairly assess PT3 is to compare it with the results of PT3 in the following year.
More important, perhaps, is for us to be concerned about how students cope with the new system and how it can help them move to a higher level of learning as envisioned by the new plan.
Among the criteria of the new plan is to produce students with higher order thinking skills.
Based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a standard taxonomy on student thinking ability by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Malaysia has been ranked fairly low.
In the latest 2012 assessment, we were ranked 52nd out of 65 countries.
By measuring students’ abilities in reading, mathematics and science literacy, Pisa emphasises functional skills that students have acquired as they approach the end of compulsory schooling.
Its measurement includes general or cross-curricular competencies such as problem solving.
As a country that is moving towards becoming a fully developed nation, Malaysia has to produce citizens who can think in an advanced manner.
Like all illustrious civilisations, including the Islamic tradition in the past, the achievements of a country hinge on the creativity and innovation of her people at every level.
In this respect, although PT3 is only one of the levels of assessment in the secondary schooling system, it will be the litmus test for the system to be applied at a higher level.
As a matter of fact, the same approach has already been in place at the tertiary education level in this country since the Higher Education Strategic Plan (NHESP) 2007-2020 was introduced, aimed at driving higher education institutions towards developing human capital with the capacity to create, innovate, generate and exploit new ideas as well as to apply technology and exercise superior entrepreneurial skills.
Hence, with the introduction of a new educational plan at the school level, which manifests its maiden fruition in the form of PT3, what Malaysia is trying to do is to apply the tertiary level method to the secondary level so as to expedite the process of producing a thinking generation in the country.
Nevertheless, the question remains as to how prepared are our students, who were used to the old exam-oriented system for so long, to deal with the new system?
The PT3 results might be a good indication of the difficulty students faced.
How about the preparation of the teachers to teach, prepare questions and assess students’ performance within the new system?
Indeed, this is crucial as the new SBA system allows teachers in high-performance schools a far greater role in evaluating the whole process of learning, including the assessments of the final examination.
Interestingly, the teachers themselves have never undergone a similar education system before.
Thus, this poses a challenging task for them to teach within the framework, while simultaneously learning it for the first time.
Another challenge posed is the support system that students receive from surrounding institutions including the family, media and society at large.
Do such institutions dance to the same rhythm in motivating students towards becoming a thinking generation?
Several recent issues reported by the media concerning politics and race might not help contribute towards this objective.
Similarly, the irresponsible trend of spreading unconfirmed sensational news to gain publicity in the social media will only destroy the noble aim of producing a thinking society.
In essence, education is about building a culture. It needs to be nurtured in a concerted manner which involves both formal and informal players.
Schools with a proper system and curriculum will only be successful if they are strongly supported by other social institutions that share their educational vision.
In the case of the new educational plan that aims, among others, to produce a society with the culture of higher order thinking, unless all the players of society, including parents and teachers, understand the true vision of this plan, it will remain a Herculean task to be accomplished.
Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran is Senior Fellow/Director of Ikim’s Centre for the Study of Syariah, Law and Politics. The views expressed here are entirely his own. The STAR Home News Opinion IKIM Views 20 Jan 2015