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I hate exams !

         The mere word of 'examination', or its shortened version 'exam', could evoke a myriad of feelings from many of us. Those who have excelled in it would be justifiably proud of their academic achievements. Less fortunate ones may find various reasons to deride it. Even adults would cringe when reminded of it in their school-going days. But most will agree that exam is a necessary albeit unpopular aspect of formal education. At its heart, examination is a tool used to gauge learning, or the lack of it. Over the years, many standardized tests have been established to quantify academic performance. Our educational system is not exceptional in this aspect.

Exams, urgh!!!
         As any schooling youngsters in Malaysia are well aware of, there are a number of major examinations in their school lives. For the primary school level, there is the UPSR (Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah, or Primary School Assessment Examination), taken by Standard 6 students. This examination purports to identify a pupil's weaknesses and strengths in preparation for his or her entry into secondary school the following year. The next public examination is faced at the end of Form 3. Known as the PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah, or Lower Secondary Assessment), it is the results of this examination that decide which streams (Arts, Science etc.) that the students go to in their upper secondary years. Pupils who score high marks are usually channeled to the Science stream.

          At the end of the two year upper secondary course (in Form 5), pupils sit for the SPM (Sijil Pendidikan Malaysia, or Malaysian Certificate of Education), which signals the end of public schooling. To enter the universities in Malaysia, pupils have to undergo pre-university studies such as the government regulated Form 6. Two years in Form 6 lead to the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia, or Higher School Certificate of Education) upon the results of which determines acceptance into the local tertiary educational institutions. The number of vacancies in these public universities are limited, thus exacerbating the stress faced by the examination candidates.

What's your score?
         All these national examinations are conducted nationwide and are highly regarded by the Malaysian public. Whenever the results of these examinations are released, they receive much coverage in the national newspapers and television. There are the customary performance statistics, national top scorer, the best performing schools etc. Naturally, there are enormous pressures on the students to perform well in these examinations. Some students have been known to commit suicide due to examination related anxieties in the past. And these anxieties are shared by the parents as well. Apart from these national examinations, there are the usual term examinations conducted at the school level. Though not as important, they are still, nevertheless, receiving much emphasis by our increasingly examination oriented society.

Love it or hate it. It's here to stay.
         There are various views held among pupils concerning examinations. Some pupils favour examination as an incentive to study. Below are some excerpts taken from a related article in New Straits Times (August 1986):

"Last year 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)
"Examination can be defined as the only link between us and textbooks. If it were not for examinations who would want to attend tuition classes, slog over homework or memorize weird formulas? Examination, undoubtedly, serves a good purpose as they discipline our minds and test our mental ability and understanding. It also builds character and trains us to accept challenges, success and failure. Nevertheless, I still wish there were no examinations"
(16 year old)
"Examination! The very word makes me cringe. It is school's foremost servant-fiend and my deadliest foe. If power should fall into my hand, I'd banish it from the face of the earth. Yet school wouldn't be school without examinations. It certainly keeps students on their toes with eyes and ears open. Teacher would know if they succeeded in drumming anything into our heads. Let's face it. Our future depends on how we fare in examinations. "
(16 year old)

On the contrary, some students express disfavour towards it:

"Examinations encourage an unhealthy spirit of competition among pupils and compel them to cram facts rather than understand them. To avoid failure, candidates resort to copying. The worst fault of examinations is their lack of reliability. A good student may be sick or mentally upset ..... while a dull student may do well by correctly 'spotting' a question ....."
(age not available)
"There are many reasons why I think there should not be exams. When children fail their exams, the parents will scold them and blame the children for not studying hard. When students have to study for so many exams, they will not enjoy their childhood. They feel ashamed when their teachers or parents punish them when they fail. Finally, the children have to remember so many thing they don't enjoy going to school. "
(9 year old)
"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)

         Through these expressed views, one can see that even those students who have made a positive comment regarding examination, in actual fact tolerated it as a necessary evil. Given the tremendous impact it has on a student's future, it is no wonder that examination is regarded as the most important event in a student's school life. However, one cannot avoid pondering whether examination is really that essential to learning. Is there a better stress-free alternative?

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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.