Separate exam sessions for affected candidates

PUTRAJAYA – The Education Ministry (MOE) will not postpone major examinations, scheduled to begin in February, but will arrange separate sessions for candidates who test positive for COVID-19 or are under mandatory quarantine.

Education director-general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim said the affected candidates would be allowed to sit for the examinations only after they recover from the illness or have completed their quarantine period.

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“The quarantine period is 14 days and the examinations are usually held longer than that. So, when they have recovered, the candidate can sit for the other papers which are ongoing and the ministry will arrange different sessions for the missed papers,” she said in a virtual news conference here, today.

Habibah said the ministry would provide a different set of examination papers so there is no question of leakage.

“However, we have to ensure the papers are of the same standards. This is very important,” she said.

Existing standards remain

When asked on calls to lower the marking grades as there are students who got left behind in their school lessons due to the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), Habibah said the examination’s existing standards must remain to avoid losing its recognition from Cambridge.

“The SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) has been recognised by Cambridge as equivalent to the O-level. If we make any changes, we will lose its recognition and we don’t want the 2020 candidates to lose that in their certificates which might affect their opportunity to pursue their further studies or join the workforce.

“(The) same applies for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) which is recognised as an equivalent to the A-level and for the time being, we cannot make changes to the examination,” she explained.

Habibah said the ministry has planned a different approach for the marking and results process as the time frame is much shorter this time around compared to previous years.

“That way, candidates still have sufficient time to apply for tertiary admission or to join the workforce,” she said.

This year’s SPM, STPM, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) and Diploma Vokasional Malaysia (DVM) examinations, as well as last year’s equivalent international examinations, are scheduled to begin in February.

Following planned calendar

Habibah said despite calls to postpone the examinations in view of the risk of COVID-19 infection among teachers and students, the MOE will stick to this year’s planned calendar but with stricter compliance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines.

“If we look at reports, the transmission is among the community and no cluster has emerged from government schools or government-aided schools.

“This is because the ministry has a guideline and SOPs to be adhered to by the schools, and examinations SOPs which must be complied with before, during and after the examinations,” she explained.

She said the same SOPs and guidelines were used during the 2019 SPM repeat test last year and no candidates were infected with COVID-19.

Asked on possible infection in schools, Habibah said the ministry’s decision was based on advice from the National Security Council and Health Ministry.

Transition programme

A transition programme meanwhile will be implemented this year to see students’ readiness and prepare them for entry into the following year, said Habibah

She said the programme was formulated after school students were not able to undergo the proper learning session in schools last year due to the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The 43-day transition programme involves all students in primary and secondary schools and is done according to the method deemed appropriate by the teachers involved, she said in a virtual press conference on the 2021 school operations today.

“Last year, they were in school for several days only. As the ministry is concerned over the differences in terms of communication and how the learning took place at home, taking into account the differences in access to learning, we have proposed this transition programme.

“If there is a learning gap among pre-school children entering Year One this year, how do we prepare them in terms of readiness for Year One,” she added.

Monitoring of teachers and schools

On the implementation of home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) this year, Habibah said it would be thoroughly monitored to help teachers and schools improve the method from time to time.

“Previously, we only monitored how many teachers and student were involved in PdPR, but now we want to see in terms of the subjects taught and if teachers conduct PdPR online, how much time was taken for the sessions and the percentage of students’ attendance for each session,” she said.

Meanwhile, Habibah said on the first day of school on Jan 20, the attendance was encouraging recording 95 per cent, involving candidates who will be sitting for the 2020 major examinations.

The percentage was much higher compared to the reopening of schools in July last year during the Recovery MCO period which was about 91 to 92 per cent, she said.

On the educational television programme, TV Pendidikan, Habibah said it would run for nine hours daily, from Monday to Friday and would be broadcast on Okey TV, Astro and NTV7.

“We are also planning to increase the TV Pendidikan airtime to reach out to more students because more than 90 per cent of households in Malaysia have television so the access is definitely wider,” she said.