This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From the ST Forum

'Sure fail' exams: Apply them sparingly

AS A 16-year-old, I have been through my fair share of examinations. It is no myth that national exams are becoming more difficult as the years go by. Schools, including mine, are setting more difficult internal exams to prepare their students for these rigorous national ones. Advantages of this practice include equipping students with the necessary practice and skills to successfully attempt more challenging questions.

Singaporeans must realise the world is becoming more competitive. Nowadays, an average student is not one who scores Cs but one who scores As and Bs. Educational qualifications are gaining importance and schools are only trying to give their students enough experience to tackle national exams with ease.

However, schools must justify setting these 'sure-fail' exams, implying they must have prepared their students for the difficulty of internal exams. While difficult questions are known as a test to discover the most able students, the average student must be sufficiently prepared to sit for difficult internal exams and pass. Schools with an average mark of 40 per cent in a certain subject have evidently not prepared their students for the difficulty of such exams.

While this scare tactic may have worked in the past, it does not any more. Students can deal with failure once or twice, but when the average student fails constantly, he will probably give up completely. This will destroy his love of learning and the education system will have failed him.

Schools have every right to maintain high standards and push their students to achieve academic excellence. A small amount of pressure can be helpful in any pursuit. However, this tactic should not be overdone and not at the price of students' well-being. Schools have to prepare their students sufficiently for challenging internal exams to provide a healthy learning environment and inculcate a zest for learning. This can be achieved only with positive motivation. I am confident this will boost not only students' confidence, but their results as well.

Thara Rubini Gopalan (Miss)

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