Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thinking Questions, Tuition Questions and the Owl Questions

(The thinking questions of PSLE exam are mostly likely ended up as tuition questions at tuition centres.  Perhaps, more specialised tutors are needed for this niche market. Who say the government is not enterprising?  It is indirectly growing the industry. However, after all the thinking, the owl still cannot find his way out, why?)

The PSLE exam is now shifting to test thinking skills and how much learning a candidate obtains.  Ironically, these thinking questions will become the challenging questions for the tuition centres.  Each will compete with each to come out with the best solutions to the thinking questions.

So, the Ministry of Education is giving tuition centres another marketing tool for promoting themselves.  Really, do we need a tough and high standard of thinking questions to distinguish students?

An owl question
May I ask this funny question? When the owl flied into the office of the Prime Minister the other day, what was this bird thinking or did the owl do a thinking calculation at all before entering the Istana?  Oh!  This becomes a difficult and challenging question.  Perhaps, with his mathematical minds, our PM can give an answer on why the owl flied into his office.

The owl might think too hard on the route to the PMO but unfortunately she was not able to calculate the exit route. So, is the owl thinking inside or outside the box? Most likely the owl was thinking inside the box as she finally needed assistance to fly out of the Istana.

Challenging thinking questions
According to the Education Minister, this year PSLE examination questions are to test students’ thinking skills.  There are challenging questions to test the learning of a candidate: 
[Some of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) questions this year were crafted differently to guide the students’ thinking, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed on Facebook today (Nov 22).
 “One small refinement we’ve made is to craft the more challenging exam questions in a way that lets our children show what they’ve learnt, while keeping the PSLE standard high,” wrote Mr Heng.] #1
What is the meaning of ‘keeping the PSLE standard high’?  If you want to score A*, you will have to solve these challenging exam questions.  Every school is a good school but not every school is equipped to solve the A* questions.  So, tuition centres come to the rescue.  

In fact, there are many young parents complaining about the difficult thinking questions of primary one or two. So, one can imagine how challenging are the PSLE questions? 

PSLE is a one-way thinking, just like the owl.
One-way thinking
I am afraid we are training students thinking only one side of the story, just like the flying owl thinking (inside the box) the one-way mission to the Istana.  After taking the one-way exam, the owl could not find a way out.

The owl must have proper education, not necessary taking challenging exam, about what is wrong or right at the first place.  It is wrong to enter a room without permission.  If you are a hacker or intruder, you will be arrested and charged in court. PSLE candidates should know about this before and after taking the exam.  Scoring A* is a one- way traffic and knowing the right and wrong is a two-way traffic.    

Still exam smart
Unfortunately, the schools focus too much on solving challenging questions.  The tuition centres and parents are also too busy preparing students for the exam. So, it ends up with students thinking inside the box – chasing the A*.  Once achieving A*, students go further into another exclusive narrow box in search of more A*.   

Primary school students should be free to think and have fun. Setting challenging questions to maintain high standard for PSLE is dividing ‘have’ and ‘haven’t’. No wonder some tuition teachers can become a millionaire who certainly can help the 'have' to solve the difficult exam questions. 
[Acknowledging that the school-leavers examination may sometimes be more pressurising than desired, he told parents to "find the right balance". He said: "We don’t want to have excessive pressure. Where there is, we have made adjustments, toned it down. But we must not compromise our strengths in developing our children and in preparing (them) for the world, which is going to be very competitive, and for (their) jobs, which will not be easy.”] #2
Preparing our students the high moral standard is far more important than solving the challenging exam questions.  The ‘right balance’ and ‘excess pressure’ that PM referred to is just solving the challenging questions and scoring between A* or A.  It has not solved the fundamental problem.   




  1. First, the owl must take extra English lessons. She (he?) flew instead of flied. Maybe she's fried?

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