Feb 2, 2016

The Future of Education : Journal Reflection 2 During your own education, how has your "intelligence" been assessed?

When I was little, both of my parents believed that I was smart and intelligent. Although I am a Muslim, my (second) middle name is “Sarasvati” which is the Hindu Goddess of knowledge and arts. My father gave me that name, hoping that I would grow up into an intelligent person who loves learning. Both of my parents read books to me everyday. At the age of three I was already able to read. I was known as a child who was extremely active. I never stopped moving or talking or doing something. I was also a curious child and loved to pose questions to the people around me. I guess, when I was little, adults considered me as an intelligent little girl.
However, things changed when I was in school. In school, I never felt intelligent. During my school days, students were ranked based on their performance in class. In my elementary school there were about 40 students in a class. Students that was the highest performer will be ranked the 1st. Then, there is students that ranked the 2nd, the 3rd, and so on (until the last). Students who are ranked the top three are usually considered the very intelligent. Students who are ranked in the top 10 are intelligent. Most of the others are average. And students who rank the last 10 are not quite intelligent.
In Indonesia (where I live) there is a term called “nilai merah”. Nilai is score and merah is red. So, nilai merah means red score. A student gets a red score if her scores in the report card are 5 (or below) out of 10. In elementary school I never got a red score. But I never ranked the top 10 or the top 5. However, at the time, I did not really think much about my academic performance. There were other more interesting things to think about. Playing was one of them.
I continued my schooling to a private lower secondary school. Since the first few weeks at that school, I was bullied by some class mates. I will not tell the details here. But I remember that at that time I rarely felt happy. I cried almost every day. School felt like hell. It really did. However, I kept my experience to myself. I never told my story of being bullied to anyone. My teachers and my parents knew nothing about me being bullied.
I did not know if my experience of being bullied affected my performance at school or not. I guess it did. How can you concentrate on studying if what you feel is always sorrow? I also never remembered myself studying that much. My scores were always below average. I performed very badly at school.
My teachers gave me a lot of quizzes. I remember taking quizzes almost every day. I also had a lot of homework. Quarterly, I had to take ulangan harian bersama (UHB). UHB is an examination that was designed by a group of teachers from the same district. Students from different schools (in the same district) take the same examination at the same time. All the UHB questions are multiple choices. Besides that, I had to take the school quarterly final examination which was an examination designed by a group of teachers from the same foundation. (My school was run by a private foundation. There were some other private schools which were run by the same foundation). The examination from the foundation consist multiple choice questions and essays. At the end of each quarter, the scores from the quizzes, the homework, the UHB, and the school quarterly final examination became the basis of the scores written in the report card. The report card was written quarterly.
I remember that in my first year of secondary school (year 7), my scores in my first report card were very low. I don’t remember how many subjects I took, but I remembered that I got 5 red scores, each for different subjects. For my second report card, I got 4 red scores. For my third report card, I got 2 red scores. Lucky me, I did not have to join the retention program. At that time the policy was that if a student got 3 red scores (or more) in the report card at the end of the third quarter, then they must repeat year 7. I made it until year 8 and year 9. I did not get as many red scores as before, but my rank was always the lowest 10.
At the end of year 9, I had to take the national examination. I wanted to continue my studies to a public upper secondary school. The national examination scores will determine whether I can or cannot continue into the public school. In Indonesia, especially during my school days, public higher secondary schools are selective schools. Those public schools only admitted the cream of the cream. The ones admitted to those schools were only they, who had the highest national examination scores in town. I was accepted to a public school.
However, my performance in the school was always below average. During my upper secondary school years, I was always ranked as the lowest 10 in my class. However, I was able to continue my studies to an top tier University in my country. In university I failed a lot of classes and had to repeat many classes to be able to graduate. I graduated anyway and continued my Masters in one of the Red Brick Universities in UK. Now, I work as an educator in University and is planning to continue my studies again.
During your own education, how has your "intelligence" been assessed?
My schooling experience reflects how “intelligence” has been assessed during my own education.
My intelligence was assessed in many ways. First,  through (a lot of) testing. The tests that were given to students over and over again gave the message that only those, who passed the tests with high scores are the most intelligent. Secondly, through the type of school I went into.  The highly selective schooling system gave the message that only students are accepted in the (prestigious) top tier schools or University are intelligent.
How has this affected the educational opportunities you have been given?
My (academic) performance in school were always low. But, I always went too schools which enables me to develop into a better learner. My schools never lacked teachers. Many of the teachers I had were passionate and caring. I also had access to information because both of my parents loved reading and provided me with a lot of books. They also always encourage me to gain various experiences by taking after school classes, joining internships, participating in social activities and organizations. I failed a lot in school but I had the opportunity to keep on learning. A lot of people do not have this opportunity.
Many people do not get the privilege I have. Many people,  go to school that lacks the number of teachers. Some schools only have one teacher to teach students from year 1 until 6 (in elementary school). Some schools have enough teachers but sometimes they are not qualified to teach (lack basic skills needed for teaching). Additionally, they also lack the access to good quality information.
It did not matter where the students went to school and what educational opportunities they have gotten, they still have to take the national examination at the end of year 6, the end of year 9, and the end of year 12. The results of the national examination will determine which schools they will be admitted to. Without performing well in the national examination, they can not continue to a school with better teachers and better facilities. They must accept to be admitted into another low performing school or university (if they ever continue at all).
School performances showed by tests scores do not really reflect someone’s intelligence. Students low performance in school might happen because many reasons, including social-economic factors, psychological factors, and much more. Being labelled as a low performer does not mean that a student is not intelligent. What they need is a safe environment that supports learning, and an education that are meaningful for them.  
There are also cases of people who do not go to school. These unschooled people might be very intelligent as well. For example, an unschooled farmer might know very well how to cultivate a land. They are knowledgeable about farming. They might also be very skillful in solving various problems faced when dealing with crops and farming. They also face a lot of challenges in life which  other people did not have to face. To face those challenges they need a certain way of  thinking. If they are given the opportunity to gain meaningful education (that may also happen outside of school), they might be able to develop their knowledge and skills beyond our imagination.
What judgments have people made about you that have been affected by an assessment of your "intelligence"?
Some people say that I am intelligent because I was graduated from as top tier university. Some people say I am a not very intelligent because my school/university transcripts show that I did not perform well in school/university. Some people  do not really care whether I am intelligent or not.
Personally, I do not know if I am intelligent or not. However, I love learning and I know that I will never stop learning.   
Do you consider yourself to be a "learner"? why?
Yes, I am. I failed a lot in  school, but I am very passionate about learning, especially about education. I have chosen to become an educator. And being an educator means dedicating your life to become a life long learner. I love learning through different things, from reading various books, magazines, articles, and much more. I also love to educate myself by participating in workshops, seminars, and trying online courses (like coursera). I also love meeting different people, having conversations with them, working with them and learning from them. I always value new experiences and do not mind having an adventure by doing things I have never done before. I love thinking about the world around me, reflecting on experience, and figure out new things to learn. Am I a learner? I sure am!   

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