| Azlan Othman |
THE Ministry of Education (MoE) has made several bold moves to enhance the Primary School Assessment (PSR) achievement level for this year as the Sultanate sets its sights on realising the Brunei Vision 2035.
This includes setting a target that at least 74 per cent of PSR students will achieve Grade A-C this year, setting percentage attendance target at every school, giving autonomy to school leaders and the introduction of a special financial grant for schools that achieve excellent PSR results.
Minister of Education Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong said that setting the 74 per cent target is a progressive effort towards attaining the Brunei Vision 2035. The medium-term target is that at least 90 per cent of primary school students will achieve Grade A-C in the PSR for 2017.
The minister noted this during a dialogue with primary school leaders yesterday.
“This is particularly so to the 47 schools that achieved less than the 74 per cent target last year, and this can be done through the Cluster Heads and by optimising human as well as other resources. They have to aim high. Other school teachers who are competent can also help the students,” the minister told reporters.
“Like what we have done at catalyst schools over the space of 46 days. We deploy secondary school teachers to assist the primary school teachers. I am confident that such target can be achieved this year judging by our efforts last year, which involved 15 schools.”
Emphasis and monitoring will also be placed on school attendance, so as to meet the aspired target. Among the approaches employed are the Standard Operating Procedure at schools and the provision of the Mandatory Education Act 2007. To assist school leaders in fine-tuning efforts to ensure school attendance is consistent, a key performance indicator (KPI) for attendance has been introduced at every school effective February 10, 2015. The target of attendance percentage at every school is 95 per cent, the minister explained.
Such KPI is not only to assist the attendance level, but also to serve as a guideline for school leaders to enhance the effectiveness of monitoring and the efforts of parents, leaders and the community in jointly helping students learn through consistent attendance, he added.
“We have launched real time attendance monitoring through the Internet at every school. We will know who is absent and school leaders can contact parents as to why their child is absent,” the minister said.
He also urged school leaders to use the autonomy entrusted to them as highlighted in the School Leadership Forum last month. Their autonomy, which covers curriculum, assessment and teaching and learning resources, can boost confidence towards attaining excellence.
To ensure the effectiveness of the KPI, bi-monthly checkpoint tests for Year Six students will also be conducted starting February. This will assist the school and the Ministry of Education, especially in accountability and performance management and in acquiring indicators on the effectiveness of the efforts done.
Additionally, to encourage school authorities to attain excellence and in meeting the national target, the Ministry of Education has introduced a special financial grant for schools that achieve significant PSR results.
“I welcome the school management’s innovative efforts, such as having proper and flexible curriculum, revising teaching workforce based on competency and qualifications, strengthening the content of parents-teachers meeting and so on,” he said.
“Students’ achievement in the main examination has remained constant – year in, year out. Over the past 10 years, it seems that we have been trapped in a situation whereby the percentage of students getting Grade A-D in the PSR is between 77.7 to 89.42 per cent,” he said.
The percentage of students obtaining Grade A-D in all core subjects last year (2014) dropped up to 0.72 per cent, compared to 2013 – where it stood at 84.49 per cent. Such decline was experienced by both government and private schools at -0.42 per cent and -0.26 per cent respectively.
The percentage of students obtaining Grade A-C also declined up to 0.69 per cent last year, compared to 2013 (63.95 per cent). While there has been a drop of 1.14 per cent at private schools, a slight increase of 0.24 per cent was recorded at government schools. It is a sign of improvement – albeit a small increase.
“Statistically speaking, the performance of students in the PSR examination is good. At the same time, we are also exposed to a wider gap compared to other countries. This can be seen in a bigger perspective, when we take into account the performance in GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level exams and the unemployment figures.
“Based on the November 2014 figure, 63 per cent of jobless people possessed secondary education as their highest education. Towards this, a more strategic approach is really needed to free us from such situation,” the minister said.
The minister later shared statistics on Singapore, which has recorded 97.5 per cent for their Primary Six Examination (PSR) compared to students in Brunei, who recorded 85.2 per cent.
Singapore ‘O’ Level students recorded 82.7 per cent, while for Brunei, it stood at 32.02 per cent. Singaporeans scored 91.11 per cent in obtaining three ‘A’ levels, compared to Brunei with 57.35 per cent. This suggests the need to strengthen primary education as the basis to increase students’ achievement at a higher level.