I am writing as a parent of a 9-year-old and a 11-year-old. I am honestly very concerned for my children. Minister Chan Chun Sing announced the removal of mid-year exams for my children last year, and it starts this year. He says that it is to nurture the joy of learning. It doesn’t work.
It doesn’t make my children enjoy learning more
My children have very different personalities.
The elder one enjoys learning, and from a young age he has taken interest in books. He will always ask me questions about the things he read. With or without examinations, his love for learning has always been there. Removing exams actually motivates him less, because he does like seeing himself score well in exams.
My second one prefers sports. He is the active one who really enjoys PE and he actually swims faster than his brother when I take them both for swimming lessons. Learning doesn’t excite him, it isn’t about the exams. In fact, removing exams removes even more motivation to learn because for him he’ll tell me that he’ll study nearer to the exam because he scared he forget if he learn now (ya kids are quite funny).
What taking away exams does is take away any indication of how well my child is doing academically
I now don’t actually know how they’re faring at school and if I should be taking any measures to help them. I can only wait until their finals to see. Even if there are quizzes at school, these only tell me how much the kid knows about a particular chapter, at that point in time. It is not a good progressive marker of whether they have understood what they didn’t understand before.
I hear from other parents that their tuition centers are offering exam papers for the children to practice on. Because at the end of the day, exams are the best checkpoint. (Also, if parents have to resort to buying papers/sending their child for tuition to learn, then what’s the point of school?)
What schools should offer are alternative ways for a child to succeed
Leave the exams there to continue encouraging children who are academically motivated. At the same time, invest in alternative paths like sports, the arts, computing, or even entrepreneurship for our children. It will help show them that studies isn’t all that matters.
At the end of the day, I believe that it is parents and their classmates (who are influenced by their own parents) who make education stressful for children. This change isn’t for the government to make. It is for parents to make sure they don’t impose their own aspirations on their children. It is on parents to ensure that they are not stressing their own children by scolding them when they do badly.
Removing exams does not change that many parents are overly invested in their child’s results (not even education, its a pure numbers game for some of them.)