Like all other parents with school-going children I am a stakeholder in Malaysia's education system.
As such, I have a direct interest in urging the Malaysian government to stay the course on using English as a medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science (aka PPSMI).
I also have a direct interest in the issue of whether UPSR and PMR should be scrapped.
My children are studying in an SMK. They are not ensconced in a private school or an international school. They are mainstream.
Like any other children, I'm sure they find exams tedious. Even more so, public examinations.
I'm sure that they would prefer the abolition of any exam of any sort...FOREVER.
That, certainly, was my prayer throughout my entire school life. That, I'm inclined to believe, also forms part of their prayer at some level.
This is only natural.
Examinations are an audit of our knowledge, cognitive progress and analytical ability.
Nobody likes to be audited.
Even grownups who control or work in places like Enron, Worldcom, PKFZ, Transmile and Kenmark do not like to be audited.
Like any audit, exams have this unpleasant and discomfiting habit of pitting us against other people. It exposes our weaknesses...our Kryptonite...our Achilles Heel. Too much exposure.
Many of us like to be left alone.
Like many say about the game of golf, we should only be playing against and measuring against ourselves...although the same many fail to explain why, then, is there a necessity for golfing competitions.
As a matter of fact, I famously (famously because I have been re-telling this story) wrote down my name and exam number on the Additional Maths answer sheet at SPM-level but left the entire sheet (in Zen-like spirit) blank. This probably explains why my aspiration to be the greatest aeronautical engineer in history did not come to be. It also explains why my blueprint sketches of Raptor-like jetfighters and improvements to the Tomahawk cruise missile did not contain technical specifications. And, also why I like Winston Churchill's description of his schooling at Eton in his autobiography, My Early Life.
So, should the UPSR and/or PMR be abolished?
My heart screams YES! GODAMMIT! DO AWAY WITH THAT PESKY, NASTY STUFF! I NEVER THOUGHT IT MEANT ANYTHING EXCEPT TO CAUSE MISERY TO ME AND, NOW, MY PRECIOUS CHILDREN!
But...and, there's always a "but"...but, is that sensible?
My head...my annoying head...says NO.
Exams are audits. Exams are a way in which progress or the lack of it is measured.
In a fairly brief part of the lives of young Malaysians there is a public audit of their mental development at ages 12 (UPSR), 15 (PMR), 17 (SPM) and, some say, 19 (STP).
Much as I hated exams, especially public exams, the certificates issued are an objective measure of how good...more likely, how average I was.
But, at least, there is a record.
My school report cards have long disappeared.
The only thing left are the public exam certificates.
Those certificates are an objective record of my mental progress in school. Anyone picking up the certificates will be able to form a reasonable impression of how my present intellect...or the lack of it...came to be.
Old photos don't count. They don't tell the same story.
Maybe the focus of the proposed Roundtable should be on improving the quality of education instead of whether, or not, to scrap UPSR and PMR.