I was excited when I read the news, despite the tendency of government talk to evaporate into half-hearted attempts, poorly executed failures, and  nothingness.

Yes, I am excited.

Think of all the possibilities our education system could achieve if students did not devote their whole existence to scoring against meaningless yardsticks of regurgitation! In fact, I often think, the less of a ‘system’ there is, the better. Gen-Y (and the new Gen-Z?) is very resourceful, they need inspiration and the freedom to explore…the very thing exams rob kids of.

But I am cautiously optimistic. Can Malaysians be trusted with the responsibility of freedom? Are we hardworking and motivated enough? We’ve become so result-oriented as a society. With carrots and sticks gone, I could see many helplessly lost, especially the young. Would the masses sail through six years of primary education without a thing to show, or would they actually benefit from the freedom of exploration through play? Would they know how to appreciate the opportunity? Or would they complain all the more of being bored, a word almost synonymous with students I know?

Teachers play an important role here. Many teachers I’ve talked to graduate from Teachers’ College with a tank full of idealism. Well, some remain passionate even after twenty years of teaching, and a system without public exams would no doubt give them a wider canvas to paint. But the others who tend to go through the motions…perhaps would still perform better under more pressure. I don’t know.

More practically: what would students be taught if PMR was abolished? Would schools then channel all five years into preparing them for SPM? Living Skills and Geography would disappear, subjects I honestly enjoyed. How do you give schools enough incentive to take these subjects seriously if they are not tested? And rural schools with no resources…axing public exams takes the focus off these schools, the last thing they need.

Is axing PMR just a way of fudging over the fact that the standard of Math and English in our country is dismal? Perhaps the moderation of results has just really gone too far? It would be one less way of keeping accountable, one less lie needing to be told of the standard of education provided. Taking a look at this will give you a glimpse of the kind of a conundrum we’re in.

On the other hand, it might force poor kids to be in school longer and obtain an SPM certificate at least. I don’t know. Dropping out is a seriously problem…MCA estimated 25% of Chinese quit school before SPM in 2008.

Well, I don’t know enough to have any real insight. But shaping the next generation has always been something that excites and concerns me.