Call to let students get exam results online

Nominated MP Lim Sun Sun says the atmosphere during the collection of exam results is one where students feel the fear of failure most acutely, and has urged the Education Ministry to give them the option of getting their results online, and in priva
Nominated MP Lim Sun Sun says the atmosphere during the collection of exam results is one where students feel the fear of failure most acutely, and has urged the Education Ministry to give them the option of getting their results online, and in private.ST FILE PHOTO

A Nominated MP yesterday urged the Education Ministry to give students the option of collecting their results for national examinations online, and in private.

This is because the collection of Primary School Leaving Examination, O and A-level results is a setting where students feel the fear of failure most acutely, said Professor Lim Sun Sun.

Noting that the atmosphere at these events is stressful, she said allowing students to view exam results online would lessen the pressure.

The suggestion was one of three she gave in her adjournment motion in Parliament, to reduce the fear of failure in students here.

She cited the Programme for International Student Assessment test results released last December, which found Singapore had among the highest proportions of 15-year-olds who were anxious about failure, despite being ranked second in the world in how well they apply knowledge and skills, and solve problems.

Prof Lim said: "Those who have performed beyond or up to expectations will be relieved, but those who have not will find the (results collection) exercise excruciating.

"By turning off the glaring spotlight on the collection of results for high-stakes exams, we also send the important signal that ours is a culture of lifelong learning that does not end with attaining these certificates," she added, noting that universities and polytechnics have successfully released their exam results online.

She suggested that schools can be open to students who wish to seek support or consultations after the results, or those who want to celebrate with their teachers.

The methods some teachers use to motivate underperforming students is another possible contributory factor to this fear of failure, said Prof Lim, who teaches at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

A minority, she said, use harsh measures - "microaggressions" - like reading out the names and test scores of every student in class, from the highest to lowest scorers, prolonging the ordeal for the ones at the bottom of the pile.

Fundamentally, these teachers have good intentions and seek to spur on their students, but more can be done to empower them to be proactive and sensitive in helping students manage failure and deal with setbacks, Prof Lim said.

"Our schools must feel like safe spaces in which to fail and to try again."

She said that while class rankings in report books have been de-emphasised, teachers should not put excessive focus on grades in everyday communication with parents.

She said teachers are communicating actively with parents through apps like ClassDojo, which allows scores to be assigned to students' in-class performance so that parents can "track" how their child is faring.

This has led to some parents "obsessing over these scores and interrogating their children about what went on in school", she said.

Responding, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Faishal Ibrahim said his ministry is "continuously reviewing" how schools release results.

"We also want to build a support system where there are teachers and friends available to support a child. We want to make sure there are opportunities for kids to get guidance during the process."

He added that experiencing failure is unavoidable and schools today provide opportunities for students to face challenges and openly discuss success and failure.

"At the same time, parents and families also have a part to play. We, as a society, should also start to redefine how we measure success and react to failure."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2020, with the headline 'Call to let students get exam results online'. Print Edition | Subscribe