A False Dawn?Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.Albert Einstein
Last Saturday was one of those non lie-in days when you get to pity the teachers who have to impart the sad tidings to parents about the non-achievements of their offspring.
Thankfully, the report on Our Kid wasn't as bad as I feared. Out of the 28 in his grade 8 class, only 5 achieved the passing grade of 65% in Maths and Physics. So he's in the bottom 82% in those two subjects. That he's more or less top in English and Computer is to be expected. After all, his dad is renowned for the splendour of his native tongue and his presence in hyperspace. Our Kid is also pretty good in Art and Music, so I'm pleased at that.
His class teacher is also the Physics teacher and I emphasised in our discussion that I don't blame her for his low scores. After all, teachers are duty bound to teach the national syllabus, which is then tested with standard multi-choice questions set by the Department of Education. There is no time available for creativity and experiment.
However, I have no intention of reiterating what I wrote a year ago here
other than to say that national exams (ujian nasional
) are held for years 6, 9, and 12. After the final school exam (year 12), students wishing to enter an Indonesian state university have to take the State Universities Entrance Tests (known as SNMPTN), as well, possibly, as Interest and Talent-based tests for individual universities.
In spite of the ongoing social upheaval, which lead me to put this post on hold, there may be some encouraging news emanating from SBY's new cabinet. Several ministers are trying to impress all and sundry, and probably SBY in particular, by embarking on 100 Day Programmes. Although these generally smack of the endemic myopic short-termism, the new Education Minister, Muhammed Nuh, has declared that he intended to do away with the SNMPTN.
His reason is blindingly obvious to all but those who actually set the tests. If students can only 'graduate' from elementary school (SD) (year 6) into junior high (SMP), and from there at the end of year 9 into senior high (SMA) by 'passing' each ujian nasional
with a predetermined average score in a limited number of subjects, why add the pressure of an extra exam at the end of year 12? Surely 'passing' the final exam with sufficiently high scores in the relevant subjects should be sufficient.
There is, however; a significant problem with this. Such is the competitive nature of the exams, with dire consequences for schools with a significant 'failure rate' and even worse problems for those students who are irredeemably marked as failures for the rest of their lives, that answers to the exams are regularly leaked beforehand, for a fee naturally.
So I hereby offer Pak Nuh half-hearted congratulations. They'll be wholehearted when he drastically overhauls the national curriculum so that it reflects individual talents and interests of students rather than the mentality of bureaucrats in thrall to prestige and competition.