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Leave choice of workbooks to parents
Published on: Saturday, January 06, 2018

By Liong Kam Chong

THE issue of heavy school bags burdening our primary school pupils has been around for some time.

No workable solutions seem to be in sight yet.

Perhaps we need to gain greater insights into the problem. Interes­ted stakeholder should share their thoughts.

Here are my observations and deductions. The problem seems to more severely affect pupils from Chinese schools than pupils from national schools and other vernacular schools.

Moreover, it is pupils from “big” well-known Chinese schools in urban areas who carry the heaviest load.

Their counterparts in smaller, lesser known schools in rural settings are less affected.

The Education Ministry’s analyses of the performance in the UPSR of all schools in recent years do not indicate any significant or worrying discrepancies in the performance between pupils from national and vernacular schools.

Also, the gap in performance between urban and rural pupils is narrowing. This includes urban and rural Chinese schools.

In light of the above observations, maybe some of the myths about the relationship between workbook usage and exam performance can be dismissed. More workbooks, and therefore heavier school bags, do not necessarily translate into better exam results. Workbooks seem to find their way mainly into “lucrative” schools where enrolments are high and parents are more affluent. If workbooks are to fulfill their proclaimed function of helping improve poor performance, they should be heading to smaller schools in rural or suburban areas.

The Education Ministry has provided free textbooks for all subjects to all pupils. These textbooks contain exercises, too.

There are also past-year UPSR papers that can provide rich revision materials.

In addition, there are Ministry-approved websites that pupils can access if they want workbook-like exercises.

If teachers work earnestly on these resources with their pupils, their classroom time would be fully and fruitfully utilised.

These resources, in my opinion, are sufficient for even the average hardworking pupils to master the subject and be able to score well in the exams.

Purchasing workbooks, or not, should therefore be the prerogative of parents. Schools should adopt a “hands-off” policy as far as auxiliary workbooks are concerned.

Liong Kam Chong

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