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SPM: Why the drop in all ‘As’ scorers
Published on: Sunday, March 19, 2017

By Kan Yaw Chong
HAVE you noticed the number of straight As SPM scorers in Sabah dropped from 142 in 2015 to 113 last year?

Similarly, nationwide, all A scorers dipped from 13,970 in 2015 to 11,289 in 2016.

People may say it shows a fall in academic performance. The fact is the questions asked in the 2016 SPM subjects focussed on testing understanding and critical thinking for the first time and, therefore, it’s a more difficult SPM exam.

Director General of Education, Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, said the dip is “due to change in ways questions were structured” but did not elaborate on the background leading to the “decline”.

He did say, however, “those students who took the time to understand their subjects, did well,” but did not clarify why only this time.

Well, Dr Mary Gambidav, new principal of SM All Saints Likas, which produced two or one-fifth of the Top 10 straight A scorers in all Sabah, explained clearly to Daily Express what actually happened.

First SPM batch faced higher order critical thinking questions Remember in years past, lots of people heavily criticised the Malaysian education system as being too examination-centric?

In response, the Federal Government came up with the PT3 (Pentaksiran Tinkatan Tiga) or Form Three Assessment module implemented in 2014 and abolished the PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) or Lower Secondary Assessment that same year.

Therefore, the 33,581 SPM candidates from Sabah who sat for the SPM 2016 represented the first batch of students who in 2014 were assessed by their schools via a variety of tests under the PT3 module, to sit for an exam-centric SPM 2016.

“This is the first batch of students from the PT3 module who sat for SPM which sees the presence of what they call Higher Order Thinking Skills (Hots) where the structure of questions requires students to master critical thinking skills and properly understand the syllabus, compared to the previous objective questions, meant to serve a higher objective to produce more intelligent future Malaysians to better face the rising global challenge,” Dr Mary explained.

“So, in the 2016 SPM exams, all schools faced this total shift to PT3 style exam which stressed understanding and quality by setting high order thinking questions but even though we are not ranked among the Top 10 Schools in Sabah we were able to produce two of the Top 10 straight As scorers in the State,” Dr Mary noted and gave former principal Madam Tiong the credit for that.

The day PT3 or School-based Form 3 Assessment replaced centralised exams Probably most people have no idea what PT3 is. The PT3 is one of the four assessments under the overall school-based assessment (PBS) system.

The other three PBS components are school assessment; assessment of physical, sports and co-curricular activities; and interestingly, a psychometric assessment which is intended to ensure the selection of and emplacement of students suited to their capability and interest.

In short, centralised Form Three examination ceased in 2014 when the PT3 was introduced.

The PT3 module began to assess them via written and oral tests as well as assignment, practical tests, projects, field study and case studies.

Written and oral tests were used to assess Bahasa Melayu and English.

Science, Mathematics, Islamic Education, Living Skills, Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, Iban and Kadazandusun language subjects used only written tests.

History and Geography used a raft of tests that covered written assignments, practical tests, projects, field studies or case studies.

Moving away from an exam-centric tests and back But can people trust school-based assessment? Well, there were auditing and regulatory measures.

While schools administer, assess and provide the score on the assessment, they must base it on instruments and significant scoring regulation guide provided by the Examination Board.

The Examination Board and the External Evaluator appointed by the Examination Board would implement the moderation and verification before the release of results or reports.

But one of the problems is when the students go into Forms 4 and 5, they are moved back to an exam centric system.

This transition from three years of school-based assessment at lower secondary to exam-centric upper secondary assessment is causing some confusion and schools need inputs from the Ministry of Education how to move forward to prepare their students for a shift back to an exam – based SPM.

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