Thursday, March 3, 2011

Subjective vs objective

Farhan is practising times table since last week. The teacher gave him a set of goals to accomplish and sent note to parent informing the goal for the kids that particular week. They encourage the cooperation of parents to help the kid to achieve the goal. During meals even he asks us to question his times table. Last week, his goal was 2 times table. And once the previous was achieved, this week's goal was 3 times table. For a grade 1, I think, he was quite fast in understanding how the tables actually work. He said, the first thing in the morning he is to do at school is to work on achieving his goal. 

It is interesting that kid of grade 1 talks about achieving 'my goal'. Every kid has his/her own distinctive goal. They can move forward according to his own capability. The kids learn by setting goal and move towards achieving it. 

We view this as a sheer difference compared to the education system in the home country. Here, we see, students are assessed subjectively rather than objectively. I mean in our system, the ability and achievement of students is assigned by number and comparison against the other members of the class. But here, the report cards given to parents at the end of each term contain no such numbers. Rather it contains what the students have learnt and what they have achieved. For example, he has been able to read certain level of books but he needs to improve on aspects of pronunciation (eg), he knows to count up to 100 and backward, he is able to understand basic math plus and minus, he is able to write his own story, interact well with other members of the class etc.

There is no written examination at this stage. The focus is the basic communication, language, numeracy and every day skills. It also stresses to instil confidence with one's own capability.

There is no homework except reading a story book of his level of reading capability supplied by the teacher every day.

On the other hand, the way our education system is presented, insofar that we see, students are expected to follow the system rather than the system  checking the need of students and adjust accordingly. With the bulk of subjects to be undertaken in the early years and big number of pupils in one class, some may be left out in the fast felt moving of the system. I have heard a teacher lamented about one whole class of pupils in year 6 of his school are not able to read properly.   

Prior to coming here, Farhan has been seated for written examinations for his 4 and 5 year old kinders. They were for Malay and English as well as Math. Despite the fact that he was unable to read and count at that time, he took the examination. Once he got  number 2 in the class, another number 9. I forgot the numbers for the other earlier occasions. Almost all members of the class got almost 100. So the difference was a matter of a very few points. I found later what happened was that the examination questions given were practiced before and the kids, who undoubtedly have marvelous memory,  simply put the answer in their memory without understanding the things. I also found that the kids were confused with the alphabets. Both languages, English and Malay, use same alphabets but different sounds. But the kinder use phonetic system for English and  the traditional approach for Malay. At the end of the day for the two years, Farhan even couldn't tell how  actually A sounds.

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