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What is the purpose of schooling, for which government and parents pay so much?

I have not seen any clear explanation from experts despite weeks of media discussions on proposals to scrap the UPSR and PMR. Most who make an attempt to explain do so only in part and in passing, to support an argument. All Malaysians, I believe, would like to have clarity on this.

Is schooling meant to prepare children for the job market? Or is it to prepare them for adult life? Is it to lay foundations for tertiary education and to teach them social and work skills? Is it to mould the minds of children so they think in a certain way? Or is it to teach them how to think and solve life problems?

Is categorising schooling into academic, technical and vocational the way to go or are there other ways of looking at education? Is there a need to tailor some parts of schooling to gender differences and needs? Or would this go against the ideology of gender equality?

We should not fear to discuss these issues because they are fundamental to the well-being of future generations and the experts should lead as moderators and guides.

As a layman I suggest the government scrap the PMR and not the UPSR for the following reasons:

1. Before too many children drop out, a well-designed UPSR would assess their basic living skills necessary for envisaged future societies.

2. The UPSR can be an early assessment of aptitudes and intelligence to guide post-primary education/training planning.

3. A well-designed UPSR would enable this planning from age 14, rather than at the late age of 17 years.

4. At Standard Six, children are about to enter puberty and start dropping out. A good screening system can help design post-UPSR education/training that minimises drop-out rates.

5. The PMR contributes to forcing bright students into unsuitable streams without effective counselling.

6. A new system of education that offers students a variety of subject combinations from age 14 to 18 will make the PMR unnecessary.

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