Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Exams... the new killer.

Exams... Examinations... Assessments...Test...
What's the purpose of it all?

It is formed on the basis that children need to be motivated to learn, that learning must be imposed, learning is not natural, that humans are born with brain with nothing and we need to fill it up with knowledge. And therefore exams are there to "make sure" kids learn.
My boys, 8 and 10 years are having exams this week. They are stressed... their mother, me is more stressed. I am in a huge dilemma of whether I should just step back and let them learn whatever they can and want in school and sit for the exams with that and accept whatever results that get OR like almost every other parents, be worried and 'kiasu' (scared to lose) and get heaps of assessment books and past year exam papers from the 'prestige' schools to drill my boys to score better in exams.  I am falling into the second category... which I hate what I am becoming! Every cell in my body is rejecting it.. and I am becoming increasingly frustrated and forcing my boys to learn as if they are empty vessels and bribing them with rewards to motivate them to learn. What can I do???

Schools or training centers were created to train human resources for the factories, for production, for the economic growth of the country. Therefore it's a set curriculum where everyone has to go through, and a set goal and examinations are conducted to make sure the outcome achieved is of a measurable standard. However that's not the case for every circumstances and that is not what education should be like. We have blindly followed the same model and make examination compulsory even for even little 6 year olds. My view of what examination is as follows:

- Examination limits imagination and creativity
- Examination limits the knowledge that is to be learnt and explored as they only learn those that are in the syllabus of the exam.
- Children are made to learn things that are not relevant nor of interest to them. 
- Children have no time to explore and learn things that are of interest to them... however little that is left.
- Examination kills the joy of learning
- Examination encourages competition 
- Examination discourages sharing of knowledge 
- Examination marks and grades damages self esteem and causes depression
- And sometimes Exams causes children to take their own lives... such a tragedy...
- Examination causes stress and pressure to perform
- Children are pressured to meet expectations of parents, teachers, school, society, government.
- It is a hindrance to the progress of civilization, retard the progress of humankind.(please read on...)

Children are taught as if they are empty vessels to be filled, and teachers are merely filling a bucket and not lighting a flame. Baha'i's believe that all man are created noble. "Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom."

Every human being is unique and each have their latent talents and virtues waiting manifest itself. However if we were to standardize learning and judge the intelligence of a child by some examinations, test, grades or marks, then we are judging the fish by it's ability to climb the tree.

Love this video and the courage to stand up to centuries of 'schooling'.

I believe that learning is a natural phenomenon. Babies absorb knowledge, language, mobility without anyone teaching him/her. We have to just step back and allow this natural development to happen. We often do things for children because they are 'clumsy' or 'slow' but if we show them how to do it and provide the means for them to practice and do it. They can achieve so much more.

I strive to practice this at home since my kids were born, by guiding and showing them how things are done, I then allow them to do it by themselves. Result is motivated, independent, active learners. Never do something for a child that he can do it for himself, if not we are impeding the development of the child. Montessori schools strive to do the same. And therefore I studied Montesssori and send my boys to Montessori pre school. However we don't have Montessori Primary/Secondary schools here, sadly so I have no choice but to enrol them into traditional schools. And that is when the light in their eyes dimmed.... and learning become dry and imposed and forced upon them. No freedom of choice of what they want to learn or their interest and talent lies. Everyone does pretty much the same thing.

If Albert Einstein, Thomas Edision... and all the famous inventors of the past were to be confined in a classroom doing what every other kid is doing, and sitting for standardised test, we would not have electric light bulbs, electricity... and every other great invention there is.
Baha'ullah, the prophet of the Baha'i faith continue to say:  " All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization."

If we were to advance forward, we cannot only teach the children the knowledge of what is already known. We have to allow plenty of time, room and space for the children of today to explore, to become active learners, independent thinkers, have time for them to dream, imagine and then discover, create and experiment and build a better world then what we have today.

I am guilty at charged of limited time for play and exploration to STUDY and score for the examinations the past few weeks. It has been a very stressful time for both the kids and me. What is the purpose really? I see no joy in learning the things they are being forced to learn regardless whether they want to. But there's a few incidents where I gave them some break time, and they found some recycle papers and started making paper planes. And all 3 of them were so engrossed in it that they took such a long break that I was beginning to get irritated and I find myself wanting to tell them to stop 'playing' and get back to 'work'. But, I took a step back and I observed.  They are so happy and they are working together and discussing ways to make the plane fly higher, faster. They were exploring and experimenting what happens if they fold the front and make it thicker, what if one wing was bigger than the other, what happens when they use another type of paper, if they fold it a different way. I came to a big realisation that this 'play' is the real 'work'! First they chose it, they were joyful, what started off as a simple origami craft at break time became a test for a hypothesis, they were experimenting and learning about physis and science and in the process, they were focus, their attention were high, they were engaged, they were thinking, they were motivated to find tapes, staplers, other materials to make their plane better, they were repeating and practicing until they achieve excellence or almost there. Can you imagine the satisfaction, the sense of achievement, the amount of self esteem each of them have?

Can you imagine if for every single thing that each child learn, they get this feeling of achievement? of self fulfillment? Can you imagine what all this children will create? And when such motivated positive children grow up to be self fulfilled, motivated, young adults... together what they can achieve? The future is limitless!

I don't know what I can do now to help my children achieve this, but I will strive to provide more break time and allow for this latent potential to manifest itself. I hope in time we will abolish examinations and find a way to harness this great and precious resource we have to advance civilization.

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