She tested positive for Covid-19 minutes before PSLE paper

About 1,070 pupils missed at least a paper for virus-related reasons

Primary 6 pupil Jennifer Muturaman was sent home after a positive Covid-19 antigen rapid test result just minutes before she was about to sit the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) last month.

The Damai Primary School pupil, who was about to take the Malay language paper, took the Covid-19 test in school that morning as she had come into contact with a classmate who had the virus.

"I was shocked when I saw that I had Covid-19," said the 12-year-old.

She was one of about 1,070 students, or 2.7 per cent of those registered for the PSLE this year, who missed at least one paper for reasons related to Covid-19. This is up from 0.4 per cent of last year's PSLE cohort, or 140 pupils, according to the Ministry of Education.

Jennifer said: "I felt unhappy because I didn't get to go for my mother tongue language and science papers."

The science paper was on the next day. A polymerase chain reaction test confirmed she had the virus.

The only child was put on home recovery for three weeks and had to isolate herself from her parents.

She said: "I had my double dose of the vaccine, so I was very hopeful that I could recover faster."

But she was worried about passing the virus to her parents, who are both fully vaccinated and in their 50s, adding that "it could be worse for them" due to their age if they are infected.

Her father is a housekeeper and her mother, a kitchen helper.

Like other pupils who missed some part of the PSLE due to Covid-19, Jennifer received projected grades for the two papers she missed.

This was based on how she fared in other papers in those subjects in national and school-based examinations, as well as the school cohort's performance.

Jennifer attained a PSLE score of 27 with her four foundation-level subjects, which qualifies her for the Normal (Technical) course in secondary school.

This year's batch of pupils is the first to sit the national exam under a new scoring system instead of the previous T-scores.

A key feature of the new format is that students will be graded based on their individual performance in the subjects, regardless of how their peers have done.

Each PSLE subject is now scored using bands known as Achievement Levels (ALs), instead of grades like A* to E.

A pupil's total PSLE score will be the sum of the AL of each of the four subjects, with the best possible total score being 4.

For now, Jennifer has shortlisted three secondary schools near her home, and hopes to try badminton as a co-curricular activity.

It is a huge change for someone who was reluctant to even go to school. She did not attend school regularly after transferring to Damai Primary School, which is in Bedok Reservoir and closer to her home, in April two years ago.

"I felt sad because I had lost contact with my old friends. I was also feeling lonely as I had no friends in the new school, so it was hard for me to attend school every day," said Jennifer.

She added: "I was nervous and scared. I was really quiet and I didn't want to talk to people."

It took her about a year to adjust to her new school, which spared no effort to encourage her to turn up.

Counsellors, school leaders and teachers, as well as a social worker, worked closely with her parents and visited her home to motivate her throughout her Primary 4 year.

She gradually opened up to the school counsellor.

In Primary 5, things began to turn around.

"On the first day of school, my new classmates seemed very kind. When I was eating in the canteen, they approached me and sat with me, so I made friends with them," said Jennifer.

She started enjoying school and studying with her new friends.

She also put in more effort during lessons and revision.

By the end of Primary 5, she scored Bs for all four subjects, a vast improvement from failing three subjects the year before.

"I wanted to show my parents that I could actually study and do well in the future, so that was what motivated me," she said.

"I was surprised and impressed by my PSLE results. I didn't think I could get a B for any subject," she added.

Last year, Jennifer received the Damai Spark Award, which recognises pupils who show growth in their character.

She was also a recipient of the Edusave Character Award, which is for up to 2 per cent of pupils in each school whose character stands out through their behaviour and actions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'She tested positive for Covid-19 minutes before PSLE paper'. Subscribe