Malaysia abolishes primary school leaving exam

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will abolish its primary school leaving examination, starting this year, said Senior Education Minister Radzi Jidin, and replace the centralised test with a schools-based assessment instead.

The decision to abolish the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) for Year Six pupils was made after a comprehensive discussion with teachers, pupils and parents, said Datuk Radzi at a press conference on Wednesday.

The UPSR is a component of the Primary School Assessment Reports, which also cover classroom, psychometric, physical, sporting and co-curricular activities.

Some parents have raised concerns about how the intense focus on the UPSR, considered an important examination, had caused their children to have limited time for other aspects of their education, Dr Radzi said, noting that some children were sent for tuition classes from as early as Primary 1.

Plans to remove the UPSR were first mooted in November 2016, under former education minister Mahdzir Khalid.

This was followed by engagement sessions across the country to gauge views.

"In total, the sessions involved almost 2,000 participants from Year Six teachers to headmasters and parent-teacher association representatives," said Dr Radzi in a Facebook post yesterday.

"They provided us with enough meaningful input."

The exam was first cancelled last year after schools shut in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The minister said: "When UPSR was cancelled last year, we began to study holistically about its implementation, taking into account the best practices of primary school assessment systems in various countries such as Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Scotland.

"We also held discussion after discussion to find the best approach in assessing pupils' development as a whole to ensure that they are given space and opportunities to optimise their potential."

In his post, Dr Radzi also recalled an encounter with a pupil who said it would be better not to have the UPSR.

"The pupil added that his siblings all excelled in UPSR and that he had tried but he is just not good at it. The pupil said he is scared he will be 'finished' if he doesn't get 6As.

"Indeed, this child is stressed," the minister said.

Still, other parents have mixed feelings about the ministry's decision.

Some were annoyed because they said they had made early preparations to ensure their children would fare well in the examination. Others wondered if their children would be able to cope in secondary school, with the UPSR gone.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia abolishes primary school leaving exam'. Subscribe