Formative assessment critical for primary pupils

Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

KUCHING: Whether or not learning is disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) is not necessary as what is most critical at the primary level is formative assessment rather than summative assessment conducted at the national level.

Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said this in support of the decision to fully abolish UPSR from this year, as announced by Senior Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin today.

“During primary school, from the ages of seven to 12, it is not necessary to compare the students’ performance to the national norm, which is what the UPSR or public exams are about.

“What is important at this particular period of schooling is to assess the students to identify their weaknesses and their areas of strength so that the teachers can do early intervention if necessary or work on the strengths of the child,” she said.

She added that early intervention was much preferred than waiting for years before rectifying any weaknesses.

She stressed that at this particular phase of schooling, the focus should be on child-based learning and not just to prepare them for a public examination at the end of their six years of primary school.

“Any assessment done should be school-based to assess the child’s learning and to carry out intervention or remedial classes if there are any areas of weakness on the child’s part.

“Besides strengthening the child’s learning if necessary, school-based assessments can also be used to improve the teacher’s teaching or pedagogy.”

She said the abolishment of UPSR was also timely in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, which she said was all the more reason why there should be greater focus on child-based learning.

She said child-based learning and school-based assessments would benefit students more as there could be regular monitoring of their learning process and also greater emphasis on learning to acquire knowledge and basic skills, as opposed to learning just for exam purposes.

“At the primary level, continuous assessment conducted by school teachers together with the psychometric test will provide the school and parents with enough educational and social data which is useful for programme or curriculum development purposes, tailored to the needs of these students.”

On the cancellation of Form Three Assessment Examination (PT3) for this year, she said this was only fair for the students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said students in rural areas were especially at a disadvantage and faced an uphill battle due to the limitation of internet coverage there as well as a lack of digital gadgets required for online learning.

“In addition, not all urban students have such gadgets as well; there are some who are in the B40 group.”

Fatimah felt that in the long run, PT3 should also be abolished in order to emphasise on child-based learning at this level as well.

“Focus should be placed on the acquisition of knowledge and also continuing to acquire the skills that have been started from the primary level.”

She said it was only after Form 3 that students could be geared towards sitting for a public examination, once they had gained all the basic skills and any areas of weakness had been identified earlier and rectified.