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KUALA LUMPUR: THE upgraded format of the 2016 Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) with an increased number of questions requiring higher order thinking skills (HOTS) will not put rural pupils at a disadvantage, the Examination Board said yesterday.

Its director, Datin Nawal Salleh, told the New Straits Times that more HOTS questions would level the playing field between urban and rural pupils.

The new format, she said, was in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which requires that HOTS questions be increased through the years.

“Under the new format, the increase (in HOTS questions) is not drastic.

“It also does not put rural pupils at a disadvantage as higher order thinking skills are something that can be developed over time by teachers,” she said, adding that the percentage of HOTS questions would continue to be increased until 40 per cent of all UPSR papers were made up of such questions.

 Announced on Monday, barely a year before the next UPSR, the new format was met with concern by teachers and parents, who said the announcement was made at the 11th hour and that the drastic changes would affect examination results.

Nawal said although late, there should be no problems to teachers, pupils or parents as the papers would be designed based on the current curriculum.

She said the new format, which, among others, saw the English paper and other language papers divided into comprehension and writing, was determined earlier and was scheduled to be announced after this year’s UPSR, but it was delayed due to changes in the Education Ministry.

“The format was determined months ago but due to the changes, we had to present the format again to the new minister.

“It was scheduled to be announced as soon as this year’s UPSR ended, on Sept 10, as the board did not want to upset teachers or pupils who were focusing on this year’s UPSR. The change of ministers slightly delayed the process.”

Teachers had said the pupils’ results would be affected under the new format and they would be blamed.

The National Union of the Teaching Profession had asked the board to be held accountable if exam results experienced a decline.

 Nawal said the old and new formats should not be compared as they were different.

“We should be more concerned about what the pupils learn.

“What is more important is that teaching and learning has taken place.

“The new format does not affect the process as we base our questions on the existing curriculum. There should be no problems as long as teachers use the curriculum as a guideline.”

The dissemination of information on the new format began on Monday, Nawal said.

“At the national level, we started the briefings on Monday. We met with the main trainers of every state and they will go back to their respective states to disseminate the information to teachers and subsequently to pupils and parents.

“We expect the dissemination process to be completed nationwide within two months.”

Other than English and language subject papers being separated into two papers, which brings the overall total number of subjects for UPSR to six, the new format will include less multiple choice questions and a variety of fill-in-the-blank questions, match the answers, and more variable questions. 

“The UPSR exams will, however, remain a 100 per cent written
centralised examination, as in previous years,” Nawal had said earlier.

It is estimated that between 450,000 and 500,000 Year Six pupils will sit the UPSR next year.

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