I remember when I was in primary school, my classmates liked to test each other’s memory by dictating a paragraph from our textbooks substituting some of the parts with “what” and “what”. The most “difficult” questions were the most “generic” sentences like “the what of the what is what”. What???
These are what I call pointless questions and luckily our teachers (not as well-trained as those who teach our kids today) never gave us questions like that. Fast forward to the present and some things have changed. Teachers are beginning to ask such pointless questions. If there’s something very important and it’s difficult, then by all means, teach it. My issue is never with difficulty per se but rather the pointlessness of some of the very challenging questions that our kids may need to answer for PSLE.
Check out the above question in my son’s homework. Even a botanist will not be able to answer the question, not so much because it is difficult, but because it’s a bad question that does not really test the student’s understanding of seed dispersal. However, any student who has read his textbook and memorised the text wholesale, will have no problem filling in the blanks correctly.
This is what I mean by pointless “difficulty”. At best, these questions reward rote learning and at worst, they penalise students who understand the principles without resorting to memorisation.
© Chan Joon Yee