Common Entrance

Dear Editor,

It is now clear that the reform of Common Entrance has been an abject failure. The exam curriculum remains irrelevant to any kind of real education. The exam continues to impose pressures on young children that break their minds away from the love of learning. On top of all that, the new structure is actually more stressful to students.

If an adult is to learn how to deal with customers, colleagues and bosses, they must be taught early how to communicate. Yet, a Grade 6 Assessment (formerly Common Entrance) class is one of the most silent places on earth, where students have no opportunity to express themselves. There is no provision for students to learn essential life skills like public speaking, self-confidence or empathy, because the Grade 6 Assessment does not care about these.

The Grade 6 Assessment is supposed to make sure students are ready for high school. In high school, the most important skill is time management. The primary school syllabus has no provision for that. Instead, students are chained to their desks, and seldom learn to push themselves. The halls of our high schools are littered with idle students who have no idea how to do work on their own, because the Grade 6 Assessment has programmed them to follow the teacher.

Other critical skills that the Grade 6 Assessment ignores are teamwork and leadership. Studies have shown that students learn these two skills best from unstructured free time with other children. Because of the way children’s brains form, play time is essential to learning, but the Grade 6 Assessment does not recognize this.

Instead of free time, Grade 6 Assessment students are made to sit indoors like potted plants while the teacher pours information into them from above. The Grade 6 Assessment and the Common Entrance before it, have given us an ‘extra lessons’ culture which condemns young students to a school life of dark drudgery. A student can never love this boring, unfeeling approach to learning. Unfortunately, the teachers themselves have little choice but to teach this way, because the Grade 6 Assessment stretches over such a needlessly large area. The only way to cover it all is to use extra lessons and deny students time to follow their curiosity and learn about things that interest them. In the long term, the Grade 6 Assessment destroys students, because they will always associate school with dread and pressure. A book will be an object of fear to them.
Under the current format, the Grade 6 Assessment counts for 85% of the marks. That is practically all the marks right there, so Grade 6 is still just as much a pressure cooker as before. Yet, since the assessment has been extended to Grades 4 and 2, it means that parents and teachers now want to pressure these students as well, ‘because it gon count,’ even at their tender age. There are Grade 2 students being sent to summer lessons right now to prepare for their assessment.
Parents feel they have to push their children to give them success.

To these parents, I say, spend your money instead on storybooks and encourage your children to read them on their own, or read to them yourself. Increasing their reading skills will do far more for them at their age than sending them to classes. Let them play now, and they will find it far easier to get jobs and keep jobs and earn promotions as adults.

And if the parents do not want to listen to that advice, then let me speak directly to all the Grades 2 and 4 students out there: If your parents want to send you to Assessment lessons this holiday, tell them no! Go on strike. Run away and play with your friends. For your own good.

Yours faithfully,
Imam Baksh

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