Forum: Exams don't have to mean giving up love of learning

I read with interest Hannah S. Sheehy's commentary on whether she would have done things differently as a student, if she had known that her International Baccalaureate examinations would be cancelled (No exams? An education wasted?, April 1).

Her response was an emphatic "definitely" and she gave many examples of how she would learn for the love of learning.

She also wondered if her education was wasted in the end. She did not think so, and concluded that good examination performance did not equate with an education.

I write as a former teacher who taught for more than 20 years in the Ministry of Education, teaching students like Hannah completing their pre-university education.

As Hannah puts it, it is a "sad reality and fault of our education system" that most students learn for examinations and not from "a love of learning".

I agree with her observations about the reality of examinations driving student learning.

However, I believe it is convenient but simplistic to lay the fault on the education system. In particular, the high-stakes major examinations that students face at key stages in their schooling life do not have to mean that one has to give up on the love of learning in the way that Hannah implied.

Indeed, the education system is multifaceted and complex, and pulled by many forces.

There is the legacy of how schools came to be and how they are organised today, societal and parental expectations regarding schools and their purpose, and practical matters of allocation of scarce resources of school and university places.

There are issues related to the relevance of school subjects to young minds, and the degree of choice of what students can pursue in schools, given their current structure.

As an individual, how can one regain the "love of learning" that all human beings possess when they were very young, instead of letting the system take it away?

I wish there was a simple answer so that the "sad reality" of schooling can be solved.

My experience as an educator tells me this though: When you have developed such a love of learning while inside, or in spite of, the education system, you will very likely do well enough in examinations. Along that journey, you will also become educated in its broadest sense.

Teo Wah Liang