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** For foreigners who are not familiar with the country, education and tuition culture in Malaysia, you might find the following guide useful - Malaysia, Education & Tuition: A Background Guide.

Let's get rid of exams

         If we are able to do that, every single one of our school-going youths would be jubilant beyond description. Unfortunately, not only is examination a permanent feature of schooling, but it is also arguably the most important one at that. Anyone who has gone through the grind of schooling will never forget the examinations. They are aplenty. There are the common class tests, the more important term examinations and the crucial national examinations. For the latter, four major nationwide examinations i.e. UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM, exist in Malaysia. As the significance of each examination increases, so does the pressure on the students to do well in it. The anxieties are not only felt by the candidates and their immediate family members, but are also amplified by the widespread public attention to these examinations.

And the national top scorer is ....

         Around the time when the results of the national examinations are announced, the media, such as newspapers and television, will focus on the issue. They report on which schools scored the highest percentage of passes; the number of pupils who acquired the most As; who are the top pupils in a district (or region) and so on. Often there are accompanying pictures of the pupils with their parents. Reporters would interview the headmaster of the highest scoring school and parents of the top pupils about how much effort they put into their studies and how disciplined they were.

          Those pupils who helped out their parents in the evenings and at the same time achieved high marks would be featured as good and dedicated to both their family and school. The mass media interviews would focus on how they found time to study; how tired they were after work; how they still managed to complete their homework and so on. In short, the media highlighted the high scoring pupils and their schools; as well as disciplined and worthy pupils who made their parents and schools proud. All these media frenzy propagated the top scorers and their supportive parents as role models for others to emulate. In actual fact, the hype surrounding these nationwide examinations could generate less desirable and insidious effects.

Good scores, good student
         At the very least, it perpetuated the view of the omnipotence of examinations in our society. In schools, a paper test is generally the most common educational evaluation tool. Pupils are evaluated and categorized (graded) by the scores obtained in examinations. Therefore, those pupils who acquire higher marks are considered academically 'better student'. These 'better students' are contented with the present education system and are likely to receive better treatment from the teachers and the school as a whole. On the other hand, those who obtain low scores in examinations are likely to be disregarded in school. Hence, it can be seen that teachers place a lot of emphasis on examination results. Subjects are even labeled as 'important' or 'not important' based on whether they matter or not in the examination scores.

Why should I study this? There are no tests on it.

         The teachers' attitude are often reflected in the way that they conduct class lessons. When the teacher introduces a new lesson that is a likely prospect for examination, they will point it out by saying: "This is important. It may come out in the exam." By the same token, the pupils do not seriously study non-examination subjects simply because those subjects are not regarded as 'important'. They would remark: "Why should I study this? There are no tests on it." Even though the school still teaches these non-examination subjects, the teachers (and the pupils) seem to have no real interest in them. They just dispense the lessons because they are a formal part of the time table in a stipulated syllabus. This indirectly tells the pupils the greater importance given to examination subjects compared to non-examination subjects. Given the different attitudes towards the school subjects, teachers and pupils usually determine the priority and the resources to be spent on each subject. Hence, examinations have become the yardstick of a subject's importance.

Exams worth more than your life?
         The examination oriented attitude towards their studies prevents students from realizing the significance of actual learning. Their school life is strongly affected by their examination marks. As these pupils expressed in the following newspaper excerpts:

".... in the first examination I was number seven in the class. I went home and cried ....... in the final term I became number two. I went home and laughed ......."
(7 year old; New Straits Times, August 1986)
"I am the No. 1 son in the family, I have to keep my image, Inshaallah, with examinations ....."
(New Straits Times, August 1986)

         This attitude is also likely to influence a pupil's self-concept in competition. Parents also possess this attitude when faced with their children's test results. Some parents reward children with toys, books and money when they return with good exam scores. If it is otherwise, they will reprimand or punish them.

"I hate examinations. At examination time, I am forced to study for hours and hours, going over and over every subject. I am expected to be near perfect in these subjects. I am smart and usually come out top. And if I don't come out top sometimes I get a lot of scolding and nagging. So it is the forcing that makes me hate examinations so much. "
(12 year old; New Straits Times, August 1986)

         School teachers also find it difficult to treat all students equally. They regard pupils who do better in examinations to be more intelligent; conveying their expectations in subtle but various interactions. To be sure, examination-oriented attitudes among Malaysians have exerted a heavy toll on our pupils. This no laughing matter. More than one secondary school students (New Straits Times, July 1988; The Star, February 2003) have been reported to have committed suicide over examination related anxieties. In the end, are exams really worth all the accompanying headaches?


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Glossary of Terms :
(1) Tuition - Tutelage, the act of tutoring or teaching a student (pupil); Fees paid for instruction (especially for higher education). In Malaysia, tuition is more popularly used to denote tutoring rather than fee. Common Malaysian misspellings: Tiution, Tution. *(BM): Tuisyen, Tiusyen, Tusyen, Tuisen, Tiusen, Tuisyan, Tiusyan, Tusyan. | (2) Home Tuition - Tutoring that takes place at students' or tutors' home as opposed to at tuition centers; Also: Home Tutoring, Private Tuition, Private Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Di Rumah, Tuisyen Swasta. | (3) Personal Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to one student. Also: Personal Tutoring, Individual Tuition, Individual Tutoring, One-to-one Tuition, 1-to-1 Tutoring, One-to-one Tutoring, 1-to-1 Tuition. *(BM): Tuisyen Peribadi, Tuisyen Persendirian, Tuisyen Perseorangan, Tuisyen Individu. | (4) Group Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to several (small number, but more than one) students. Also: Small Group Tuition, Small Class Tuition, Group Tutoring, Small Group Tutoring, Small Class Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Berkumpulan, Tuisyen Kumpulan Kecil, Tuisyen Kelas Kecil. | (5) Tutors - Tuition Teachers, persons who conduct tuition. In Malaysia, teacher is more popularly used to denote a school teacher whereas tutor usually means a non-school teacher. Also: Tiutors, Tuitors. *(BM): Guru Sekolah, Cikgu Sekolah, Pengajar Tuisyen, Guru Tuisyen, Cikgu Tuisyen. | (6) Home Tutors - Tutors who provide home tuition as opposed to those who teach at tuition centres. Also: Private Tutors, Personal Tutors, Individual Tutors, One-to-one Tutors, 1-to-1 Tutors, Group Tutors, Small Group Tutors, Private Teachers, Personal Teachers, Individual Teachers, One-to-one Teachers, 1-to-1 Teachers, Group Teachers, Small Group Teachers, Private Tuition Teachers, Personal Tuition Teachers, Individual Tuition Teachers, One-to-one Tuition Teachers, 1-to-1 Tuition Teachers, Group Tuition Teachers, Small Group Tuition Teachers. *(BM): Pengajar Di Rumah, Pengajar Swasta, Pengajar Peribadi, Pengajar Persendirian, Pengajar Perseorangan, Guru Di Rumah, Guru Swasta, Guru Peribadi, Guru Persendirian, Guru Perseorangan, Cikgu Di Rumah, Cikgu Swasta, Cikgu Peribadi, Cikgu Persendirian, Cikgu Perseorangan. | (7) Tuition Centers - Private institutions that conduct tuition on classroom-like settings. Also: Tuition Centres, Tutorial Centers, Tutorial Centres, Tuition Classes, Tutorial Classes, Tutoring Classes. *(BM): Pusat Tuisyen, Pusat Bimbingan, Pusat Tutorial, Kelas Tuisyen. | (8) Home Tuition Jobs - Home tuition vacancies; Posts to be filled by home tutors. Also: Private Tuition Jobs, Home Tutoring Jobs, Private Tutoring Jobs, Home Tuition Assignments, Private Tuition Assignments, Home Tutoring Assignments, Private Tutoring Assignments, Private Tuition Vacancies, Home Tutoring Vacancies, Private Tutoring Vacancies. *(BM): Jawatan Kosong Tuisyen, Pekerjaan Tuisyen, Kerja Tuisyen, Tugasan Tuisyen. | (9) Home Tutees - Home tuition students; Pupils receiving home tuition from home tutors. *(BM): Pelajar Tuisyen, Murid Tuisyen, Penuntut Tuisyen. | *(BM) denotes terms in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language.