National exams are an integral part of our education system as every year thousands of high school students sit for these tests to determine their future. Going by this year’s results, the majority of students have little to worry about.
With a sky-high pass rate of 99.5 percent, just about every high school student in the country can look forward to tertiary education if he or she can get admission to one of the country’s universities. On the surface, this figure should be a resounding endorsement of the education system.
According to Education Minister Muhammad Nuh, even the 7,579 students who failed the exams have a chance to graduate as their final grades will be made up of a combination of the exam results and school scores.
The exam results, however, hide serious flaws in our education system. It is well-known that many schools have appalling infrastructure, poor curriculum and low teaching standards. Many high school graduates are also ill-equipped to deal with either university or entering the job market.
Furthermore, widespread cheating has been recorded, with students in many cases having access to the exam papers well in advance. The ministry, however, remains adamant that it has taken adequate measures to tackle cheating.
Whether this is true or not is immaterial. What is of greater importance is the quality of the students and their ability to think critically. Rather than obsessing over exam results, the ministry should focus on ensuring that students are able to be productive citizens and be employable upon graduating.
We must move away from rote learning and putting too much emphasis on exams. The education system should instead produce students who can think for themselves, are good at problem-solving and are multi-disciplinary in their thinking. As the economy grows in sophistication, the education system must change and adapt to the new reality.