Thursday, November 30, 2006

Exams and Marks: A Perspective

I had just received my exams results yesterday. Overall, it was a good result but there is always the nagging feeling that I could have done better.
Since God-knows when, I had always been obsessive about marks. I'm generally fascinated with numbers, and can still remember some of the marks I got in Primary school. I don't know why, perhaps it is the fact that I'm very competitive or a perfectionist in nature and marks are the only indication whether you did better then your friends or not. In fact, I was real annoyed that public exams only have grades, which means there's no indication whether your A is 100% or perhaps 70%. A lot fo people tend to argue that marks are just numbers of no real importance, as long as you pass, that's it; or as long as you get a HD, that's no reason to complain. For me that's a sign of mediocrity, a mentality of 'cukup makan'. How will someone progess with such a mentality? But of course you can beg to differ... that there more important thing out there then marks...
But I do agree that marks are no real measure of how well you know a particular subject, other factors such as time-management strategies and exam answering techniques play an important part too. It may seems unfair to some people that marks are lost due to a lack of time, but I think it is a good training to face the realities of life: time management is a must skill to survive.
Rote-learning is a well-known weakness of the education in Malaysia. As recent as yesterday,
Michael Backman, who recently made headlines due to his proclaimation of "Malaysia Bodoh" wrote in TheAge website:

How children are educated in Malaysia is a national disaster.Learning is
largely by rote. In an email to me last week, one Malaysian recalled her
schooling as being in a system “all about spoon-feeding, memory work and
regurgitation. Students are not encouraged to think for themselves and they
become adults who swallow everything they're told.”

Eventhough I quite agree with that, I also would like to say that rote learning is also prevalent in Australia. Even in Universities, most of the subjects need to be rote-learnt. As a veteran in rote-learning, the fact that I can survive here in Uni is a good enough indication that they practice the same 'system' or else I would had struggled like a fish out of water. So I will said to Mr. Backman: your views are first-rate and spot on, but please look at your backyard before criticising other country. Oops, I forgot.. you didn't like to live in your house, but spent most time in London..
While rote learning had been excessively harped and critisied in the education field, I would also like to highlight the lack of emphasis on learning from your mistakes. In my opinion, it is a fundamental error in the education system. I think a lot of people haven't grasp the importance of correcting your mistakes in exams. While having a critical and creative study method is important, equally so is getting feedbacks after the exams to know where you gone wrong. We make mistakes throughout our lives, more so in exams due to the 'pressure-cooker condition'. And as mistakes goes, the most important thing you can do about it is learn from them to avoid falling into the same trap twice.
Nonetheless, seems that universities examiners doesn't think that correcting your mistakes is important. Nobody bother to give you back your papers unless you asked for it. In fact they don't even tell you the score of the components of your exam. Why? I think for fear that you will ask for an additional mark here or there, or you questioning their methodologies, which means more hassle. Even the Deputy Education Minister of M'sia doesn't think that it is important. He felt that exams should go till the last day of the semester. I wouder which teacher will go through the exam paper for the students the following semester. Even if they did, the students will had already forgot nearly everything about it.
For me, learning from mistakes in an exams is more important than the actual meaning of the marks. A poor mark means that there are lots of mistakes being made and there is a need to do a post-mortem to rectify the problem immediately. There is nothing worse than making a mistake without knowing it. Making the process difficult is an indication of one-dimensional mentality and wrong emphasis. And to my friends who think I complained too much about my marks, try put things in my perspective. I hate to make mistakes. It equals imperfection. Harping about marks especially right after an exam in just a way for me to dissect my mistakes and remind myself not to repeat them during the next exam.

1 comment:

youngyew said...

Congrats about the results! Anyway the way you said "I hate to make mistakes. It equals imperfection." sounds a bit like Gregory House: "I hate anomalies. Anomalies bug me". :)