We are now in the last term of the academic school year. The highlight of this term is definitely the Final Exams. You have parents on tenterhooks, teachers in a hurry to complete the syllabus in a given subject, and pupils with their parents on the lookout for tutors, if they have not already got one, who will guarantee success in the examinations. The anxiety, the headaches are palpable. Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs that exists in the school year, and a question by the discerning, in the educational world, as to why this should be so.
The problem, of course, is that our schools function in a system that is primarily geared to success in a competitive, market-oriented world. The Report Card issued to a student is, therefore, measured against the norms of a consumerist culture, in which the economy is focused on the selling of consumer goods (marks in a subject) and the spending of consumer money (tuition fees). The more the marks, the better the chances of "making it" in the dog-eat-dog societal ethos.
If you do not agree with what is stated above, let us look at the set-up in most of the classrooms. In the traditional arrangement, desks are in straight rows, facing the front of the classroom, where the teacher typically stands or sits. This customary layout suits very well the lecture method with its emphasis on listening, rote-learning and a near complete absorption of the facts put out by the teacher. Despite a unanimous condemnation of this method of teaching, the actual pupil-teacher-parent mental and emotional state at the final examination stage will confirm what method of teaching still carries on in our schools.
The question therefore is: what kind of student should one expect at the end of an academic year? Must the student be one whose head is bursting at the seams with knowledge acquired in the classroom during the academic year? Should we have a student who has advanced in social and moral behaviour? Must we evolve students who have learned to develop their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking by browsing through matter other than provided by the teacher and the textbook?