Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Exam System Is Broke

Allison Pearson, commenting on the Daily Telegraph's expose of GCE history chief examiner Paul Evans' shocking action of revealing contents of future papers to teachers, was no more surprised by her own daughter's attitude. "Relax, Mum, it was a paper from 4 years ago... Plus, if the paper's hard, the examiners will adjust the grade boundaries so I'll probably get an A* anyway."

One schoolgirl who sat for this year's A Level biology paper at a Dover Road premier school said something similar. The questions were difficult, but she was confident that the T-score will be tweaked if everybody else stumbles. Last year one chemistry paper question was out of syllabus, but since a particular JC had supplied its students with the material for the answer, everybody had a free boost in their grades.

Pearson reflected that, during her days, one "swotted up as hard as you were inclined", and the exam results will pretty much reflect one's strengths and weaknesses in the subjects studied. Those were the days when 10As were unheard of, Bs and Cs were respectable grades. There was no such thing as "being good at exams". Or as Evans explained the game in play, "We're cheating, we're telling you the cycle." His illogic for focusing on key topics instead of covering the entire syllabus, "Yes, if we are proper educationists, our gut instinct is to teach the lot... (but) if you are under pressure to get results and you are hammering exam technique, you may go at a slower rate."

Our teachers will recognise the technique: if you teach the whole syllabus, you will have less time for drill practices. All the holistic spiel about skipping the O Level in the IP system so kids will have more time for enrichment activities is plain baloney. The extra time is more likely spent in extra tuition classes. They even have tutors for students sitting for the IB. One lecturer claims that even undergrads are attending tuition classes.

Quick to distance themselves from the British exam system under fire, principals like Chan maintain that other than briefings on changes in syllabuses, teachers here have limited contact with Cambridge examiners. Specifically, "...questions that will be used for exams in the future are not discussed." Tell that to the kids, and especially their parents, who sign up with ex-teachers who make a bundle selling tuition services on the premise of their uncanny skills at spotting questions.


  1. "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." -- Mark Twain.

  2. The education system is broke too. Too many schools jumping onto the IP through train program derails meritocracy and causes greater social immobility. Rich parents can afford to buy a property near good primary schools. These kids got a head start at a good primary school stand a higher chance to gain entry into IP school. Fewer places are left for those who got good O Level results. The education system is elitist. Meritocracy is thrown out the window. We need to use our votes to reverse this perverse system created by the PAP.

  3. Realistically only 1000 to 2000 students per cohort can benefit from an IP education where they can explore their interests for the first 4 years of their secondary education without being to be bogged down by GCE 'O' Level. Beyond that, most IP students basically end up in JC having a very weak foundation in their subjects as they are not force to cope with the rigour of 'O' level. Neither are they able to make good use of their time in secondary education.

    It end up that most of them are taking tuition in JC to help them to push through. Basically the buck is passed from the schools to the parents for them to cope with their 'A' levels.With the justification of giving students a holistics education with numerous CCA and community involvment programmes, schools are pushing academic learning back to the parents by having them 'force ' to engage tutors for the children. That why we have a booming tuition industry where fulltime tutors can earn $20K to $30K per month.

    With the impending expansion of the IP programme, I think we are in for a rude shock in terms of the quality of the students we are churning out.

  4. Our education system is getting more elitist, denying those disadvantaged ones the chance to be educated.
    In an attempt to maintain the school ranking, principals will force out all those academically weaker ones saying that their existence will only drag down the overall school performance, instead of trying to help them to catch up.
    Even in ancient feudalistic China, Confucius also believed that when comes to education, no one should be discriminated against.
    When in school,I was only taught about there was only one standard answer or model answer. If you want to pass, you need to learn by hard this model answer.If you dare coming with your 'own' answer, you will be penalized! This is very unrealistic because in real life, there is no such thing as one standard answer.
    Realize that nowadays, parents are no longer able to couch their kids in their studies, because the subject content is too hard for even those educated parents. This force them to spend heavily on tuition. Costly, pressurizing to those who can afford the expensive tuition and unfair to those who can't afford.
    If parents have to spend heavily on tuition, this reflects the insufficiency of the normal lessons in school. Why can't something be done to make it less necessary for students to go for those extra tuition.

    No One Should Be Discriminated Against In Education. The Education System Should Equip Everyone To Face The World When People Leave School. No One Should Be Left Out For Whatever Reasons

  5. Spore education system is not actually education but training for jobs. Singaporeans grown up in this education system are not really educated persons. They cannot think logically and independently themselves except a very few exception. The education only creates average performers. All straight A scholars are mainly exam smart students and most will not go far in real life. Given the prefixed career path and white horse policy, Singaporeans do not have diversity in talent pool. This could be the main factor of the end of a prosperous Singapore in near future.

  6. Mark Twain talked about EDUCATION .....not the school system.
    Schools provide part of the whole education.
    Education from your parents, your hobby, your thinking, reading, travels, jobs, ......... to make you a better person.

    Read his quote again and you might get the meaning.

    "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." -- Mark Twain