On the 23rd of April, students are supposed to be sitting for their O’level and A’level examinations. Despite this, at the moment, students have many concerns about whether or not these exams will go ahead. It is for this reason that over the past days, SDM has launched an online consultation initiative for students to voice their concerns. We truly understand the difficult circumstances which the whole nation faces during these unprecedented times. However, we are committed to represent the students’ concerns and protect their rights.
The first point which has to be made is that the students’ health, as anyone else’s should be given the highest priority and that no exams should take place if it is not safe to do so. It must be kept in mind that thousands of students sit for these exams; which are held in classrooms of around 30 people. Additionally, students and parents meet outside the venue before and after the sittings. This scenario would be not only impossible to take place, but also dangerous in the current state of affairs, especially if the restrictive measures in place right now are still in place.
Secondly, it is essential to understand that for students who are sitting for their O’levels exams, these are the most important exams of their academic life up until that point. They have already been put under much pressure to prepare well by their respective schools and teachers. These students should know whether they will be sitting for these exams or not in the next month. Although the students should be preparing for these exams and studying from home, it is not healthy that students are given only a few days’ notice whether the examinations will be held as planned.
Another critical issue which must be considered is that school has been closed since the 13th of March. Since the Easter holidays were planned to start on the 6th of April, this means that teachers had three weeks removed from their schedule, meaning that a number of them have not finished the full syllabus required for the exams. This differs on a case by case basis since schools and teachers might have planned things differently. Ultimately, this will result in some students sitting for their exams without covering all of the syllabi at school. Another concern relating to this issue is the fact that students who felt they needed extra help in certain subjects and attended private lessons have the same problem since private lessons were stopped as well.
Students’ mental health should also be given much importance. It has to be understood that if exams were to take place as planned, students sitting for their exams would have been stuck indoors for almost two whole months. Although this impacts students differently, this should also be kept in mind and given the importance it deserves.
Our Concerns Regarding Potential Alternatives
Especially on social media, there have been several suggestions on what could be the way forward. The most prominent of these is a system which resembles closely the policy being pushed forward in the United Kingdom. This system is based on a prediction of the students’ mark in the upcoming exams through analysing the student’s previous marks. Although there is no information suggesting that this system is currently being considered by the authorities locally, we would like to make our concerns about this idea as clear as possible.
Firstly, we feel that students who did not do well in previous exams should not be condemned by their performance in a particular exam sitting. This could also work the other way around; if students have done well in previous exams, it is not guaranteed that they will do well or achieve the same results in the upcoming exams.
Secondly, it has to be kept in mind that different schools have different standards of assessments, examinations and marking. This would lead to students attaining the same certificate by being tested in different ways. This could naturally be advantageous to some students, while negatively affecting others.
Another consideration is the fact that students would prepare differently for exams, in accordance with the weighting they hold. While all assessments should be given the attention they deserve, it can be understood if students decide to dedicate more focus on their SEC and MATSEC examinations. This issue could be noticed especially when it comes to A’levels and students attending sixth forms, as students know that their performance in the assessments will not affect their A’level results.
SDM believes that given we are living in such unprecedented and extraordinary times, we should not be afraid to take extraordinary measures. We think that as the situation stands at the moment, the SEC and MATSEC examinations should not take place on the dates planned.
We feel that it would be best to delay the current session of examinations by 1 or 2 months, depending on how the situation evolves in the coming weeks. This would be beneficial for students to have more time to prepare and catch up on any parts of the syllabus which have not been covered, through an online medium such as recorded lectures, presentations, notes and others. We also feel that this could open new possibilities and also allow the previously cancelled oral and listening examinations to take place. If this proposal is accepted, we also suggest that the marking of these papers is done more efficiently for results to be published in less time than usual. We propose that the resit session is also moved back by two weeks and that the applications for educational institutions and the start of the next scholastic year are slightly delayed to accommodate these changes.
Naturally, at this stage, there will never be a perfect solution to these issues, and this proposal could also encounter its problems. One of which could be a problem of finding venues for these examination sessions since the schools used for these would be conducting their exams at this time. What we suggest is that the secondary school and sixth form focus their assessments more on assignments and online means. These methods would be more favourable here since the exams in question do not carry the same weighting as the SEC and MATSEC examinations. This would leave schools available and allow the MATSEC and SEC examinations to take place there. This could also be seen as a silver lining since it could test how other assessment methods work in practice, starting a debate on whether our educational system focuses too much on exams.
Another issue which was voiced by several students is that if this proposal or a similar one is taken on board, students will have less time to enjoy the summer and have their downtime. We believe that under these circumstances, it is our duty as students and as citizens, to make our sacrifices. Especially when considering the situation, we are currently facing; health care workers and professionals are risking their lives and fighting this pandemic; people in our country are testing positive, and thousands of people are dying around the world. During this pandemic, all citizens have had to make their sacrifices, and for students, missing out on summer and everything that comes with it will only be a small price to pay.
This system could still allow students to be promoted to the next step in their educational journey without repeating a year in the process.
This statement only tackles the issues and concerns which are being faced by students sitting for their SEC and MATSEC examinations. A separate statement regarding University courses and exams will be published shortly, and SDM is in close contact with the authorities, KSU and other University Student Organisations to understand the whole situation at hand and issues a statement that encapsulates everyone’s opinions and recommendations.