Written by: Education expert, Kenneth Law
I still remember a saying about discussing education: “Everyone has experiences, and everyone has something to say.” With the widespread availability of education, parents of kindergarten and primary school students nowadays generally have at least 9 years or more of education experience, right? They often have deep impressions of the joys and sorrows during their teenage years of studying, so when it comes to educational issues, many of them have something to say.
I believe that experiences are important, but as society continues to evolve, some experiences need to be reexamined to see if they are still applicable today. For example, with the popularization of education, the focus of education has shifted from emphasizing intellectual development to valuing holistic development. There has been a significant shift from knowledge transmission to the cultivation of learning abilities and the role of assessment measures like examinations.
Apart from serving as a screening tool in certain stages, such as secondary school admissions and university entrance, examinations play a major role in understanding students’ learning progress throughout the 20-year educational journey from kindergarten to university.
Some people compare assessments to health check-ups because health check-ups can reveal our physical condition, just as school assessments can inform us about students’ learning progress. This analogy is quite apt. If we care about our physical health, should we undergo more health check-ups or focus on doing more exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough rest? You might want to think about whether you have spent too much time and effort on memorization, tests, and exams. If we use health check-ups as a comparison, consider this: after taking fever-reducing medicine, can measuring your temperature still reflect your actual health condition? After taking blood pressure medication, can measuring your blood pressure still accurately represent your true situation? If not, then what’s the point of intense drill practices to cope with assessments?
When discussing education, everyone agrees with the concept of balanced development in morality, intelligence, physicality, group dynamics, and aesthetics, as well as the idea of holistic education. However, examinations often focus mainly on intellectual development, and tests like the TSA (Territory-wide System Assessment) concentrate only on Chinese, English, and Mathematics. I acknowledge the importance of intellectual development and proficiency in Chinese, English, and Mathematics, and the assessment of these subjects can be valuable. However, we must consider whether there is an inappropriate overemphasis, leading us away from the principles of balanced development and holistic education.
Examinations have their limitations; for example, a crucial aspect of learning Chinese is developing an interest in Chinese culture. However, examinations often do not assess this aspect, and in fact, measuring interest is difficult through exams. Moreover, examinations inevitably fail to cover all aspects of the curriculum comprehensively, leaving certain areas unassessed. Similar examples can be found across different subjects. Values in ethics, physical and mental well-being, interpersonal skills, and creative thinking, which are all highly valued, are they assessed in exams?
I highly appreciate parents’ emphasis on education, but it is essential to note that examinations are just one aspect of the entire education process, often focusing predominantly on intellectual development and being limited to content convenient for test questions. Once this is understood, even though everyone may still strive to prepare their children for examinations, they might also be more willing to pay attention to their children’s interests in learning and their overall personal development. They will be more concerned about their children’s need for holistic education.