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.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Students, watch your handwriting

Fittingly, just before the exams, the Straits Times publishes an article about the atrocious state of handwriting of some students. (The full article can be found at the end of this post.)

For whatever reason, some students never learn. Even after much advice from teachers and nagging from parents, some students simply would not write legibly. They believe that the world is able to read their handwriting, and even will argue with markers that they deserve the marks, after the exam is over.

The rule is simple. If the marker cannot make out what you write, he/she will not be able to give you the marks.

The importance of handwriting cannot be under-emphasized. For example for Science, key words must be spelt correctly. It is useless arguing with markers after the exam that what you wrote is “stomata”, when what it looks like to everybody else, as “stomota”.

The student may argue all he wants that the marker mis-read his writing. From the marker’s viewpoint, the student did not know the correct spelling of the keyword. If the marker awards the student the mark, it would be unfair to students who genuinely got the answer right.

For the PSLE, although there is an avenue for appeal, students will NEVER get to see their papers after the exam. What this means is that if the markers cannot read your handwriting, and if you lose marks for that, you will have no one to blame but yourself.

The saddest part is that you will never know if you lost marks because you got the answers wrong, or because no one understood what you wrote.

From the Straits Times

Wired teens = 'Ant' writing
Students don't see need to improve handwriting because of tech tools but teachers hate it

BLAME technology for 'ants' - or what teachers call bad teen handwriting.

The Straits Times collected samples from 186 teens aged 13 to 17, which threw up 52 scripts covered with 'ants'.

They needed a lot of deciphering, typical of handwriting of the wired generation, said handwriting expert William Pang, 60.

Mr Pang, a handwriting consultant who began studying the science of handwriting analysis in the 1970s, blames this 'degeneration' on the lack of focus on penmanship in classrooms.

Students are not taught to grasp the pen properly, he said. 'Some of them even slump on the table as they write.'

They do not see the need to improve, either. After all, 'technology helps to make homework neater for students', Mr Pang pointed out.

Modern practices like downloading notes from the school's website and submitting typewritten assignments lessen the need for legible handwriting.

Teachers, who have to wade through an average of 100 to 200 scripts each week, say they especially hate the type of handwriting they call 'ants'.

'The tiny, ant-size writing makes it difficult for teachers to read what is written,' lamented Mrs Kang Yeok Lung, 59, a senior teacher at St Andrew's Junior College.

She has been a teacher for 27 years, and points out: 'When students write like that, they don't realise that the teacher's eyesight is affected and it makes marking a chore.'

The cure?

'I think assignments should be handwritten and not sent to the teacher as an e-mail attachment,' Mrs Kang said.

After all, when teachers have to guess what students write, she added, 'the student loses out'.

Especially during examinations, when essays are still handwritten, it can cost them grades. When markers cannot understand the scripts, 'there is a higher risk of misinterpretation'.

Augustus Set, 17, a second-year student at St Andrew's Junior College, said his parents feared his bad writing so much, they bought him handwriting practice books, 'so that I can write more legibly for my A level examinations'.

Still, other students are recalcitrant - they say they are expressing themselves.

Said Sayyed Amir Zaini, 16, a Secondary 4 student at Pasir Ris Secondary School: 'I tried to change my handwriting but I just can't. Anyway, I don't think I should change it just because others say so. I will change my handwriting only because I want to.'

Handwriting in the 1970s was of a better quality, said Mr Pang, who was then studying close to 300 handwriting samples as an amateur analyst. Tidier scripts showed that Singaporeans were more patient and considerate then.

'People were in less of a rush,' he said. 'They took more pains with their handwriting and the letters were more well-formed... to ensure others could read what they had written.'

The Straits Times' survey, on the other hand, revealed that many of the wired generation are disconnected, individualistic, more rebellious and non-conformist than their predecessors.

Mr Pang believes that teens will change their handwriting as they grow older 'to create their own identity'.

But that might not be for the better, he warned: 'A person's handwriting is likely to get worse with age if at work, he types more than he writes.'

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