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Don't overfocus on exams - for education's sake

A stressed student.
A stressed student. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

While there are virtues in having exams, there are also many downsides that can cause negative effects on and even irreparable damage to students ("Exam stress among the young: When grades define worth"; last Sunday).

When there is an overfocus on exams, there is a tendency to drive students into gaming the exam system to achieve good grades.

These students can possibly achieve good results through rote learning, constant practice using sample questions, intensive tuition, and "overstudying" for exams.

As a result, they may become too focused on their own needs, and may choose to forge ahead and leave others behind.

Putting unnecessary pressure on students to study for exams and meet potentially harmful real, or perceived, expectations can erode students' joy of learning, as well as their passion and commitment to learn how to learn.

These students may be distracted from developing other important values, such as the development of leadership, teamwork, and giving back to society.

To assess learning outcomes, there are possibly better ways than having exams. They include ongoing review and feedback, discussions, structured exercises and practical projects.

Ultimately, let's not lose sight of the purpose of education to mould and shape every student into becoming a wise, moral and responsible person.

Every student should become a useful person who can contribute to strengthening communities, the economy and society.

He must know how to address social injustice, achieve progress for society, and live a meaningful, productive and fulfilling life.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'Don't overfocus on exams - for education's sake'. Print Edition | Subscribe