I don’t much mind the initial objectives of the local education curriculum. It does seem to have the right intentions – primarily that of dispensing fundamental knowledge and the base skills required to acquire them. These can be seen from the textbooks designated by the ministry. Of course you have to be charitable and overlook the occasional errors in spelling and paging, the choice of graphics, and the cover with strong nationalist overtones with sensationalist fonts. Never mind the propaganda. Past that and you’d find contents geared to enable the understanding of the fundamentals of what is to be learnt. For instance, they attempt to convey the concept behind division through examples of sharing in daily life rather than merely laying out division tables to be memorised. History is laid out as stories and events rather than simply listing dates and names to be remembered. The latter examples that emphasises you to memorise is in the realms of the supplementary or interactive books that are preferred by the teachers.
In the hands of these teachers, the process of learning is reduced to a subset of 3 r’s as notes and data to be recited, remembered and regurgitated at exams. And to further buttress the success of those 3 r’s, there’s also the phenomena of question spotting based on experiences and observations of cycles and probabilities – which is trying to determine through hypothetical patterns of which questions came out when after how many years, and when was the last time they appeared.
To further ensure those 3 r’s are properly instilled, there’s always tuition with more exclusive notes and tutors with better answering tips and techniques and even higher q-spotting acumen. These are centres or persons with reputations forged by the gross total ratio of A’s to students over the years. [I believe the desired ratio is 8 A’s to a student.] Of course, tuitions are also to provide good practice for those requiring remembering by repetition. If you are not confident of your natural memory retention facilities, fret not, there are centres that boast on banners to being able to boost it for you solely for exams.
What are exams then? Shouldn’t they be about the assessments of one’s comprehension, absorption and assimilation of knowledge, and not merely a challenge that needs to be overcome with the grading marks as medallions? With the amount of adulation and fawning particularly through extensive national media coverage, the challenge it seems is more the favoured way in these parts.
But isn’t it just an illusion of what the true objective should actually be? No question it’s all about the hardwork. But if exams are mere challenges than the toils are more about covering as much as possible in order to remember as hard as possible rather than to genuinely understand things. And that’s not an exercise of intelligence. That’s all about memory retention, which has been confused for intelligence.
So maybe we should remove the deception of the accolades and adulation which upholds such illusions so that future generations would actually strive with due diligence for actual intelligence.
Shouldn’t we? Could we?
I gather not. First to be up in arms and throw fits and tantrums over even the suggestion of such would be the parents. Don’t even think about it. No way would parents ever allow such a travesty to even be considered. After all, that’s the labyrinth of illusions they came through.