Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 22nd February, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur
It was reported yesterday that the head of the NGO – Suara Guru Masyarakat Malaysia (SGMM) – Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari – was given a 24 hour transfer notice to a rural school in Pahang. It is not hard to imagine that this sudden transfer had something to do with Mohd Nor’s activities in advocating for the abolishment of the School Based Assessment (SBA) or Pentaksiran Berasakan Sekolah (PBS).
While the philosophy underlying the SBA may have been good, like many things in Malaysia, it was badly implemented right from the start. SBA was introduced at the Primary school level in 2011 and at the secondary school level in 2012. Teacher complaints about not being able to key in the grades of the students through the online management system (Sistem Pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah or SPPBS) were common. These complaints grew as more and more students started to be assessed under the SBA. With approximately 450,000 students in each level from Primary 1 to Form 3, the number of students that were supposed to be assessed under SBA grew from 450,000 in 2011 to approximately 3.2 million in 2014 (1.8 million from Primary 1 to 4, 1.4 million from Secondary 1 to 3 including Remove classes). The Ministry seems to have been totally unprepared for the volume of users needed to input the grades of more than 3 million students on a weekly / monthly basis.
I have heard horror stories about how teachers have to get up at 2 or just to input the grades because the system has less traffic during these hours. Worse still, I have received complaints about how teachers would ‘lose’ the grades of their students after they have keyed them in. The helpdesk for the SPPBS also seems incapable of addressing many of the complaints of the teachers. Since the SPPBS has been suspended until April 1st, 2014, teachers have had to record the SBA scores of their students manually.
Even the Deputy Minister of Education, P.Kamalanathan, had trouble with the SPPBS, needing 2 minutes to key in the grades of one student using SPPBS. Assuming the system doesn’t ‘hang’, a teacher with 3 classes of 30 students each for just one subject would need 3 hours a week minimum just to key in grades.
More worrying for students, parents and teachers is that PMR will be abolished this year and there is little clarity as to how SBA will replace PMR. For example, while it has been announced that the SBA will have four components – school assessment, central assessment, assessment of physical, sports and co-curricular activities and psychometric assessment – what is not clear is the weightage of these four components, what are the subjects which will be centrally assessed, how the Ministry plans to compare results across schools especially for the ‘streaming’ process, just to give a few examples.
Rather than turning a deaf ear to the criticism of the SBA by NGOs such as SGMM and the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE), the Ministry should listen to their views and work with them in order to address the education crisis which is facing our nation.
Given the many problems associated with the SBA, I call upon the Minister to suspend the SBA and to revert back to an exam based system, especially for the Form 3 cohort this year. In the meantime, the Minister should set up a special taskforce to re-examine the suitability of the SBA for the Malaysian education system and whether it will help address the crisis of confidence in our education system that has seen our PISA and TIMSS ranking plummet to an all-time low.
I also call upon the Minister to immediately revoke the transfer of Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari as a show of good faith that the Ministry has no intention of punishing those who have criticized the SBA but is willing to hear their views and work with them.