SINGAPORE - Students and parents alike are divided about this year's national examinations taking place, given the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) announced on Tuesday (Aug 21) that Covid-19 safe management measures will continue to be implemented in schools and examination venues where national exams are conducted.
Candidates who test positive for Covid-19, or are placed on quarantine orders or stay-home notices (SHN) will not be allowed to sit the exams to avoid infecting other students.
Those who miss the national exams or certain papers with valid reasons can apply for special considerations in the grading.
This means that these students will be awarded a grade based on their performance from multiple sources.
For instance, it could take into consideration their performance in the other papers for that affected subject in the national exams, their grades in school-based exams, as well as the school cohort's performance in the national and school-based examinations
The officials added that all special consideration applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and subjected to a rigorous review process.
However, while some students and parents are assured by the safe distancing measures that are put in place, others are sceptical about the assessment criteria for special consideration.
Civil servant Jasmine Khoo, 45, feels assured that her daughter's school will have good safe management measures in place when she takes her PSLE examinations in October.
"I think what's more important is to ensure that my daughter stays healthy, so I'll be giving her more fruits and vegetables to boost her immunity. But in terms of having the exams continue as per normal, I'm not worried as the students are seated separately with safe distancing measures," she said.
Homemaker Diane Wee, 45, said she is comfortable letting her 12-year-old daughter continue with her exams.
The girl, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has existing special arrangements with her school to take her exams in a separate classroom, as she requires extra time for her papers.
"I think that sufficient care has been taken to ensure the safety of the students taking the exams," she added.
All students who are under the same arrangement will be seated in alternate rows and columns, and are tasked to wipe down their desks and chairs before beginning the paper, said Mrs Wee.
However, should her child be unable to take the exam and have to opt for special consideration, Mrs Wee is concerned about the benchmark to which the grades are derived.
"For example, if the benchmark is taken based on her school preliminary exams which might be slightly more difficult than some other schools, then her grades would be lower than the national average, and would end up affecting her final PSLE score," she said.
Mrs Khoo also felt that all students, including those on SHN, should be given a chance to take their PSLE exams, provided that they are physically well. For instance, she suggested that special arrangements could be made for them to take the exams online if they wanted to.
The MOE said in a statement that students taking the exam at home will require online invigilation, which may compromise the fairness and integrity of the exams.
Other students like Ms Rena Kek, 18, is also worried about the prospect of having to apply for special consideration, should she be unable to take her A-level exams in October for some of her subjects.
"My classmates and I are especially jittery about the exams as there is a fear that someone next to you could be carrying the virus, with so many of us seated in the same examination hall," she said.
"As our papers are typically three hours long and the exams last over a couple of weeks, I'm still trying to adjust to the measures in place, like wearing a mask throughout the paper which gets a bit uncomfortable at times. But ultimately, I just hope that everything will run smoothly and there will be no disruptions."
To ensure that she stays in the pink of health for her A levels, Ms Kek has been minimising outings and ensuring that she continues to practise good hygiene.
"I think the A levels are important as it's our last major examination, so being able to take the exam provides everyone with an equal opportunity to do well and see our two years of hard work to fruition.
"If prelim exams are taken into consideration (for the final grade), some of us may not fare as well, but we may make huge leaps of improvements in time for the final exam," she added.
But for 16-year-old Brayden Wu who is set to take his N-Level exams in September, the possibility of applying for special consideration and being graded on other criteria is much less daunting.
"I think putting a student through the final exam may not be an actual representation of his abilities. After all, we do sit through all our exams, especially our prelims, like they're the actual exams. So I would not be so worried if I were to miss my N-Levels," he said.