Sunday, September 21, 2008

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is Examination a Reliable Assessment?

Written by Choong:

In Malaysia, examination is the way to assess student's performances. In fact, there isn't any other form of assessment apart from examination. In reality, the purpose of examination is for a summative evaluation. These evaluations are to see if the students understand and could apply the concepts that they have learned throughout the semester. With the examination being the only form of assessment, therefore, it is crucial that the examination must be able to reflect on student's knowledge and performances. Because, being the nature of examination itself, the assessment is very traditional where student who score A would means that the student has gained knowledge on the particular subjects and vice versa. BUT, does that really mean so? How reliable are these examination in reflecting so?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

ZAINUL ARIFIN: This is no time to mess with our kids' future
By : Zainul Arifin

OBVIOUSLY, opinions are varied on the contentious issue of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English. People are divided, as they should be, and so let the debate begin. It is better than the latest political shenanigans.

In this newspaper at the weekend, an academic reeled off statistics and test results affirming the failure of the current policy, and that as a result it should be ditched. We best now teach our children the two subjects in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or Tamil.

There are, ladies and gentlemen, as they say, statistics and statistics. Now depending on what strokes one's fancy, the glass is either half empty or half full. Hence, the policy is either serving or failing our kids.

Last week, I alluded to the danger of making the right decision based on flawed conclusions. I think this might be the case here, especially when it is widely admitted that one of the main problems is that many teachers lack proficiency in the language. As a result, many seek the easy way out and teach in languages they are comfortable in.

When it was first introduced in 2002, the idea was to have teaching aids, mainly computer software and hardware, which would help teachers and pupils familiarise themselves with the language. Reports now suggest that many of the computers are used for many things but that.
I would like to believe, again, in the adaptability of the young to prove that the problem is not in the policy but its implementation.

Blaming the previous administration for introducing this policy is disingenuous. Surely, given the situation we find ourselves in vis-a-vis the English language, the idea has merit. These are desperate times, requiring radical ideas without slinking into our comfort zones.

Everyone talks about the need to improve the teaching of English in schools, which surely is our collective wish. But this is something that is nowhere near the horizon now.

If we now are lamenting some teachers' problem with the language even when conducting fact-based subjects, pray tell where are we going to get the teachers who can teach our kids grammar and syntax, not to mention double negatives and alliterations?

English is taught not as a language, but a subject, which one needs to study and cram for examinations. It is even referred to as BI, short for Bahasa Inggeris, which emphasises its alien-ness.

It is only when the medium of instruction of Mathematics and Science is English that it becomes alive as a language.

Now consider this possibility, too: the level of comprehension or comfort in English among Year Six pupils -- those who have lived through six years of the policy -- is better than those before them who had less exposure to the language.

Have there been studies on the state of English proficiency arising from the policy, studies as thorough as the one on the level of achievements in Science and Mathematics?

If my hunch is correct, then obviously, the policy, having met its English language objective, cannot be deemed a failure.

And if that is the case, then we should not ditch it but instead work towards improving it to serve our Science, Mathematics and English objectives better.

Are we using linguists or English experts in developing our children's curriculum to structure a gradual, orderly and pedagogically sound entry into Mathematics, Science and English?

There are arguments that rural, poor children are at a disadvantage when Science and Mathematics are taught in English. This is, of course, a bogey, since who among us would want to deprive our rural, poor brethren of a better future.

Are the rural poor, now working or studying, and having lived through the previous policy, better served by it?

Are their abilities to score in Mathematics and Science, taught in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or Tamil, an advantage when pitted against those slacker urban kids whose only salvation is being glib-tongued in the imperialist language?

Perhaps someone should look at the borrowing habits in our local universities and see how many English reference books, where most knowledge resides, are checked out. Someone should also see whether there is an economic correlation between socioeconomic achievements and English language proficiency.

These are also studies worth doing. Statistics and damned statistics, eh?

Let us look at this issue beyond our obsessions on the number of A's our children get, which is now to be the guiding principle for our decision on the policy. The nation's fate and future cannot be gambled based on our 12-year-olds' results.

Most supporters of the policy are not blind to the fact that it is not perfect and neither are they rabid Anglophiles. Mostly, they are likely to be practical people, parents and employers, who see a problem.

They care about the future of our children, and our country. Parents are rightly emotional on the issue, but they harbour no political agenda and thus need not test the pulse of the electorate to decide. Their constituents are their children.

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Study reveals policy's flaws
By : Elizabeth John and Aniza Damis

TANJUNG MALIM: Five years after schools began teaching Mathematics and Science in English, tests on thousands of students have revealed poor scores in these subjects.

The tests and surveys, part of a study of that policy, have also shown that the majority of students still find it hard to follow Mathematics and Science lessons in English.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) put over 3,000 Year Five pupils and about 2,800 Form Two students around the country through short Mathematics, Science and English language tests between February last year and January.

The schoolchildren were from a mix of urban, rural and vernacular schools in Peninsular Malaysia.

The tests were made up of modified past-year examination questions. Some were taken straight out of textbooks.

Some 1,700 Year Five pupils tested this January had a mean score of 7.89 out of a maximum 20 for Mathematics.

The results were not much better for Science: a mean of 4.08 out of 14. English proficiency was not good either: a mean of 11.87 out of 31.

The mean scores of Malay and Orang Asli pupils were also much lower than those of the Chinese and Indians, said study leader Professor Emeritus Datuk Isahak Haron.

Isahak has called the policy a failure, particularly in terms of its impact on Malay students in national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan), and is asking for a return to the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Malaysia.

In the survey, many Year Five pupils told researchers they found it hard to learn Mathematics and Science in English, saying they did not understand the lessons.

In one sample, less than a fifth of the Year Five Malay students surveyed considered it easy to learn Science in English and only about a third thought it was easy to learn Mathematics in English.

When a sample of 1,300 Malay students were asked how well they understood the Mathematics and Science lessons when it was taught in English, over 60 per cent said they only understood the lessons "sometimes".

The policy had even failed in its aim of improving the pupils' command of English, said Isahak, a lecturer at the Faculty of Cognitive Science and Human Development.

Students struggled to correctly complete even simple sentences, he said, citing the following sentence in a passage taken out of a school textbook: "He ..... to bed" (The answer is "went".)

An average of 14 per cent and 19 per cent (two different groups) got the answer right.

Even the highest score according to racial breakdown -- 41 per cent of Chinese students in one group answered correctly -- did not speak well of the policy's aim of improving English.

Isahak suggested that it would do more good to allocate more time, staff and money to the teaching of English at the primary school level.

He urged a change in how the language was taught in schools. He said the standardised syllabus should be scrapped in favour of lessons tailored to suit the abilities of different students.

The UPSI study also incorporated findings from other surveys of secondary school students that pointed to similar problems.

Shortly after the policy was implemented in 2003, Associate Professor Hashima Jalaluddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia interviewed 43 teachers and 971 Form One students from six schools in the central and southern states of Peninsular Malaysia .

Most of the teachers said students had problems following Mathematics and Science lessons in English, while 70 per cent of the students said they would be more interested if the two subjects were taught in Bahasa Malaysia.

Only a quarter said they had no problem following the lessons in English.

In 2004, Zainuddin Bikum surveyed 229 students in two schools in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, for his dissertation at UPSI and found that more than half of the group was facing difficulties.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Professor Juriah Long found that about half the students in both urban and rural schools were worried because they found it difficult to follow Mathematics and Science in English. This was one of the results of her 2005 survey of over 7,000 Form Two students nationwide.

Her study, which also looked at the location of schools and the socio-economic background of students, found the concern was greater among Malay students, those in rural schools, and poor students.

Isahak said Malay students in national schools, mostly in rural areas and from lower socio-economic backgrounds, had lost out the most as a result of the decision to teach Maths and Science in English.

The ones who gained from the policy were a small percentage of Malay students from upper middle class families who went to good schools, he said.

However, UPSI's own test results showed Year Five Malay students from rural schools scored highest in nine out of 10 Maths questions and two out of seven Science questions compared with Malay students in big town and city schools.

Meanwhile, Malay students in city schools consistently fared the lowest.

Isahak believes the difference in the percentages is marginal and because there are more Malay students in rural areas, it is these students who will be most affected.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Scoring SPM Bahasa Melayu – Kertas 2

Written by Chong:

In this post, I am going to guide you in answering SPM Bahasa Melayu Paper 2 (Kertas 2) effectively question by question. Before that, I think most of you will face one common problem — running out of time when answering this paper. Why? This is because you may have spended too much time on summary (rumusan) and/or reading comprehension (pemahaman). To overcome this problem, you should do your summary and write your answers for reading comprehension quickly. Go to the next question if you face difficulty in answering a particular question. Do not waste your time thinking for answer that you know you do not know.

Another thing to take note is that your answer for every question except summary and novel should be written in one paragraph only. For instance, answer for reading comprehension should be written as below:

This is the first sentence of your answer. This is the second sentence of your answer. Please take note that you do not have to leave some space before you write your first sentence. This is the fourth sentence of your answer.

Soalan 1: Rumusan – Firstly, you should analyse the question carefully. Let say the question is "
Baca petikan di bawah dengan teliti, kemudian buat satu rumusan tentang kesan-kesan pencemaran air dan langkah mengatasinya. Panjang rumusan hendaklah tidak melebihi 120 patah perkataan.
Source: Peperiksaan Percubaan SPM 2006 Sekolah Berasrama Penuh
It is very clear that the summary you are going to write will have kesan-kesan pencemaran air as the isi tersurat while langkah mengatasinya as the isi tersirat. How to write the introductory paragraph (pendahuluan)? You should read the passage thoroughly and quickly to identify (by underlining) all the isi tersurat while looking for the main idea of the passage. Your introductory paragraph (sentence) should contain the main idea of the passage. In this case, the main idea of the passage is the kesan pencemaran air. However, you cannot use the keyword ‘kesan’ because this keyword has been mentioned in the question. Instead, you should use the alternative word for kesan such as implikasi and akibat. Besides that, your introductory sentence should be more specific to get full marks (2 marks). A good introductory sentence in this case is: Petikan membincangkan implikasi pencemaran air kepada semua jenis hidupan di bumi.

For the second paragraph (isi tersurat), you should summarize the points related to akibat daripada pencemaran air in the passage. Do not add your own point of view in writing the isi tersurat. I suggest you to write about six to seven isi tersurat and two to three isi tersirat as long as your summary does not exceed the number of words permitted. This combination of isi tersurat and isi tersirat works well for most of us because we can easily identify the isi tersurat in the passage. The reason I suggest two points for isi tersirat is that you will not get any mark if the point you have written is not included in the marking schema. You should write the isi tersirat in paragraph three. In writing the isi tersirat, you should write your own point of view not mentioned in the passage. In this example, you should write on usaha mengatasinya. Lastly, for the conclusion (kesimpulan), you should always write it in this format:

Kesimpulannya, [semua pihak/pihak apa] harus/patut/perlu bekerjasama untuk mengatasi [masalah yang dibincangkan] supaya/demi [kesan baik].
For this particular example, the conclusion should be written like this:Kesimpulannya, semua pihak mestilah bekerjasama dalam menangani masalah pencemaran air supaya rakyat Malaysia mendapat bekalan air yang selamat.

Soalan 2: Pemahaman – For questions asking the meaning of certain words (rangkai kata), you must not repeat the words being asked in the question in your answer. For instance, you answer to the question ‘Berikan maksud rangkai kata rakus mengejar keuntungan’ must not contain the words rakus, mengejar and keuntungan. An excellent answer for this question would be ‘Rangkai kata ini bermaksud gelojoh mencari faedah’.

For questions asking for your opinion, you should write your own answer not referring to the passage. For this type of questions, the marks allocated for them indicate the number of points you should write in your answer. One mark indicates that your answer should contain one point; two marks indicate your answer should contain two points; the same goes to three marks for three points. However, four marks usually indicate that your answer should contain only two points with elaboration.

For questions referring to the excerpts of the literature text, you should answer what you have learned in form four and five literature. So, a sound mastery of the entire literature syllabus in form four and five will help you to answer question 2(b), 2(c) and 2(d) correctly and quickly. Most of the time, you can forecast the actual SPM questions by analyzing the literature texts in various states’ trial papers. Most of the time, there will be question like ‘Huraikan dua perwatakan Daneng daripada petikan dan satu perwatakan daripada keseluruhan cerpen’. Some of you might now know that if you can spot more than two perwatakan in the petikan, you can actually write the additional perwatakan for perwatakan daripada keseluruhan cerpen. So, you can actually get all the answers by referring to the text given even though the question asks for perwatakan daripada keseluruhan cerpen. Give one example for each perwatakan in your answer. Daneng seorang yang tetap pendiriannya. Sebagai contoh, dia tidak mahu meninggalkan kampung halamannya.

Soalan 3: Pengetahuan dan Kemahiran Bahasa – For bina ayat, you should underline the words given in the questions for the ease of marking by the examiner. For questions 3(c) and 3(d), underline the words which you have changed or corrected in the answers. Question 3 tests your mastery of Malay language, whether you know it or you do not. So, I do not have any great tips to share with you on how to answer this question perfectly.

Soalan 4: Novel – Make sure you have read the original novels before you step into the examination hall. You should have read these novels in your form four and five. In addition to that, you should read and memorize the notes about the literature aspects of the two novels since the question will ask you to make comparison between both of the novels you have read. Give one example to support each point in your answer.

Below, a recap of the main tips of this post:
- Answer the questions quickly or you will run out of time.
- Answers except for summary and novel questions should be written in one paragraph.
Soalan 1: Rumusan – Do not repeat the keywords in the questions.
Soalan 2: Pemahaman – Tips on answering various types of questions.
Soalan 3: Pengetahuan dan Kemahiran Bahasa – Underline where necessary.
Soalan 4: Novel – Read and memorize the notes on the literature aspects of the novels you have read in form four and five.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Scoring SPM Bahasa Melayu - Karangan

A reader asked how to score an A in SPM Bahasa Melayu at Malaysia Students Forum. For your information, you have to pass SPM Bahasa Melayu to be eligible to continue your studies in form six or local university. Those who don’t pass Bahasa Melayu will sit for SPM July Paper (SPM Kertas Julai) the year after they have had their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.

Firstly, I would like to share the effective tips to score well in Paper 1 (Kertas 1) with you. For section A (bahagian A), you will have to write an essay within 200 to 250 words based on the material (bahan rangsangan) given. You should ensure that the length of your essay is within the suggested length and should not exceed it though I learned from my teacher that candidate can actually write to the maximum of 255 words.

di bawah dengan teliti. Huraikan pendapat anda tentang usaha-usaha yang perlu dilakukan untuk menangani gejala vandalisme. Panjang huraian anda hendaklah antara 200 hingga 250 patah perkataan. Source: SPM Bahasa Melayu Kertas 1 (1103/1) November 2005 Bahagian A"

One of the questions often asked by the candidates is should candidate write the whole essay on the material given or on the topic given. For instance, in SPM Bahasa Melayu 2005 paper 1, the question for section A is just four pictures showing public property being damaged as the result of vandalism and graffiti. There is a title in bold type read: ‘GEJALA VANDALISME (Vandalism)’. Some candidates worry that they might lose the content marks if they do not write mainly about the material (images).

Actually, candidates do not have to write about the pictures (the wanton damage of public property); instead they should write an essay on the topic Vandalism. They should write about the causes (faktor/punca), effects (kesan) and/or actions (langkah mengatasinya) taken to overcome problem depending on the question. So, for SPM 2005 (referring to the question), candidate should write on the actions (usaha) to be taken to overcome vandalism. However, to play safe, candidate can include a sentence or two describing the pictures given. (Sebagai contoh, telefon awam dirosakkan dan dinding bangunan diconteng dengan bahasa kesat.)

For SPM Bahasa Melayu 2004 paper 1, the question for section A is similar to SPM 2005 in the way the question being asked, in which show four pictures of various pollution as the result of development with the title ‘PEMBANGUNAN DAN ALAM SEKITAR (The Development and the Environment)’ at the centre of the pictures. So, student should not write the whole essay about the pictures. Instead, student should write the essay focussing on the topic the Development and the Environment.

Since section A of paper 1 tests mainly on the Malay language and not the content, your essay should be grammatically correct (ayat gramatis) besides showing wide vocabulary (kosa kata luas) and interesting phrases (fasa menarik). These tips work well for section B (bahagian B) too!

Pilih satu daripada soalan di bawah dan tulis sebuah karangan yang panjangnya lebih daripada 350 patah perkataan.Source: SPM Bahasa Melayu Kertas 1 (1103/1) November 2005 Bahagian B"

In section B, you have to choose one out of five questions provided and write a continuous essay (esei) more than 350 words. Please note that if you prefer writing formatted essay (karangan berformat), you have to write it in correct format to avoid mark deduction. Here is a secret to score well in this section: write a lengthy essay! Why lengthy essay? This is because a piece of lengthy writing gives the examiner an illusion impression that you can write very well.

Personally, I usually wrote my SPM Malay continuous writing more than 700 words (about three pages depending on your handwriting). Of course, your essay should not have too many errors including but not limited to grammar, spelling and word choice errors. If however you tend to make a lot of mistakes in your writing, I would advise you to write an essay about 500 words. (more than two pages depending on your handwriting). The trick is to write your words in big text size and ensure that there are not more than ten words in each line. In addition, use some relevant idioms in your writing. Some of the common Malay idioms which you should have mastered include but not limited to bulat air kerana pembetung, bulat manusia kerana muafakat; melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya; biar mati anak, jangan mati adat and berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing.

Some questions in section B are open questions which mean that you can write about the causes (faktor/punca), effects (kesan) and/or actions (langkah mengatasinya) taken to overcome a particular problem. For instance in SPM 2005, some questions have the keywords ‘ulas pernyataan di atas’ and ‘berikan komen anda tentang pernyataan tersebut’. Meanwhile, some other questions have limited the scope of your essay. You can easily identify this type of questions by looking for the keywords like ‘berikan pendapat anda tentang peranan keluarga dalam pembentukan sahsiah anak-anak’ and ‘tulis rencana tentang usaha-usaha yang perlu dilakukan oleh pihak berkenaan bagi meningkatkan mutu sukan negara’.

For your information, the fifth question is always a literature-type question (soalan berbentuk sastera). Most of the time, the question will ask the candidates to write a short stories (cerpen) based on a theme or idiom (peribahasa) given. Choose this type of question only if you have a sound mastery of Malay language. Generally, art stream students prefer this type of question more than science stream students.

To increase the use of textbook in classroom, our government via Malaysian Examination Council (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia) has decided to limit the scope of some SPM essay questions to the SPM syllabus since 2004. Hence you can actually spot the essay questions by excluding the past years’ topics. Besides that, you can analyse the trial papers’ (kertas soalan percubaan) essay questions. Here I show you a real instance where the trial question was similar to the real SPM question. Last year, the fifth essay question (tulis cerpen berdasarkan peribahasa ‘bulat air kerana pembetung, bulat manusia kerana muafakat’) in the real SPM examination was identical with Terengganu second BM trial paper’s fifth question. Was it a question leak (soalan bocor) or just a coincidence? There are a lot more real cases in other subjects too!

Below, a recap of the main tips of this post:
Essays should be grammatically correct (ayat gramatis) besides showing wide vocabulary (kosa kata luas) and interesting phrases (fasa menarik).
Section A
  • Ensure that the length of your essay is within the suggested length.
  • Do not write about the pictures. Instead, write an essay on the topic given.

Section B
  • Write lengthy essay about 700 words.
  • Use some relevant idioms in your writing.
  • Analyse the topics covered in your form four and five textbooks, past years’ questions and trial papers

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