Stop messing with our children

It’s the eve of my Moral Studies paper, more commonly known as Pendidikan Moral. As a student with enough good sense to not fail such a plain-sailing paper, I have already taken the pains to prepare for it. I have the one and only key to acing it – by memorizing 36 sentences (moral values and their definitions) and their keywords. I can recite them flawlessly, half-conscious of the stream of words rolling down my tongue, but don’t get me wrong – it didn’t take an hour for me to do it. I am simply adept at summoning concentration. I truly think that most students can do it too if they put their minds to it. But I digress.

Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan
Keyakinan wujudnya Tuhan sebagai pencipta alam dan mematuhi segala suruhan-Nya berlandaskan pegangan agama masing-masing selaras dengan prinsip Rukun Negara

Never mind that I am an atheist. Never mind that most Malaysians probably don’t adhere to the fourth line of the Rukun Negara. I typed that down, verbatim. I never hesitated. This is what the Malaysian education system is creating. I am neutral and undecided on Pendidikan Moral (PM) subject, but I have a bone to pick with the paper that we sit for in SPM. It is a compulsory paper and any educator who has a shred of concern for the future of our Malaysian children will be surprised at the level of maturity the paper-setters have. Even the slightest mismatch in the ‘answer format’ will penalise the candidate. Never mind that the candidate is intelligent, mature and morally upright. One may argue that it is common for candidates to be penalized for not following the exam format in other papers. But think about it – is there any other paper that has a format so rigid and so merciless? Not to mention that this is a paper for a subject that is most subjective in nature, with literature spanning centuries and its questions plaguing the minds of philosophers ever since we can remember.

Memorize all of this and you get A+ for the subject.

Bersikap tidak keterlaluan dalam membuat pertimbangan sama ada dalam pemikiran, pertuturan atau perlakuan tanpa mengabaikan kepentingan diri atau orang lain

Then there are people who claim that what you memorize will be ingrained in your habits and behaviour. I wouldn’t claim to know any research done on this. There has been increasing support for ‘fun learning’, as opposed to rote learning. I do not wish to dismiss the benefits of both methods, but my general opinion is this: Rote learning must be emphasised in the early stages while accommodating a fair amount of ‘fun learning’. Just as there must be solid foundation before you build a skyscraper that will reach the heavens, memorization has a place in the heart of education. In this case however, you have 16, 17 and 18-year-olds – pretty big boys and girls from what I can see – who are sitting for the paper. Is this how we teach our children? Do we imbue a sense of achievement and love for education by compelling children to memorize things that are, frankly not helpful in any way at all? Will memorizing these definitions make a person more moral? I did it, but I don’t feel any more virtuous, nor do I feel any revelation when I recite the list of moral values. What do you say to that?

Melindungi Hak Pengguna
Membela dan memelihara hak individu untuk menjadi pengguna yang berilmu, mendapat perkhidmatan serta barangan yang berkualiti dan tidak mudah dieksploitasi.

By the way, if you get one word wrong, you are not even entitled to half a mark. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Although throughout 2 years of upper secondary education, the kids are not forced to recite the 36 definitions in the classroom, although there may be teachers who actually do that. Usually, they are told to go home and memorize it for their exams. I say this because I do not wish to create the misconception that we chant those verses like monks all day long. Here, it is very tempting to ignore the problem and you may want to say that I am making a mountain of a molehill. Unfortunately you are sorely mistaken.

Citing a case study, Namasoo said that none of the about 100 non-Muslim students who sat the SPM at the SMK Tarcisian Convent in Ipoh had obtained an A+ for Moral Studies.

“Some 38 students sent their papers for a re-check but their grades were only upgraded one notch higher than their previous result. These students scored A+ for Moral studies for their trials and even scored A+ for tougher subjects such as Maths and Physics,” he said.

Welcome to Malaysia. Where candidates who have worked their asses off for all of their subjects, including Pendidikan Moral, are disqualified for a government scholarship. 559 candidates of SPM 2011 scored straight A+s. That is the highest score one can achieve, equivalent to a 4.0 GPA. So you see the conundrum. Students are being unfairly stymied based on the stupidest paper in the history of the Malaysian education system. The general consensus is that this is an issue of race (and religion; the two inextricably intertwined in Malaysia) but I will not wade into those dark waters. It is a topic for another time and another piece of my mind.

While I do not object to the syllabus that is being taught for Moral, I hope that this dastardly paper is pulled off the SPM slate. It is an embarrassment to the progress of the nation and the recently tabled blueprint that has been diagung-agungkan by the ministry, one that has also come under a lot of fire for reasons that have beset Malaysians for eons.

Then again it’s okay, our education system is one of the best in the world. 


2 responses to “Stop messing with our children

  • FuzzyWuzzyWhale

    Perhaps the people setting our national education agenda should take a gander at any introductory sociology textbook. A person’s attitudes and beliefs do not change just because he or she memorized a few lines of words.

    Despite reciting the Rukun Negara weekly for 11 years of my (admittedly short) life, I am still an atheist. Since you have already taken you moral paper, you can put all that behind you.

    Best of luck for your science papers next week.

    • Nathalie

      The reason why I’m so belligerent about this is not because I hate memorizing them. It’s because I am disappointed with the education system. I will not put it behind me so easily.

      Thank you.

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