Singapore looking at marking examination scripts electronically

Affected Hwa Chong Institution students checking their names against a register before attending a briefing last month about their missing exam papers.
Affected Hwa Chong Institution students checking their names against a register before attending a briefing last month about their missing exam papers.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Singapore is studying the option of scanning and marking examination scripts electronically, a move that follows the loss last year of more than 200 A-level Chemistry scripts sent overseas for marking.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary said: "This would potentially reduce the risks, such as theft or misplacement, associated with transporting hardcopy examination scripts."

He was responding to a question from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), who asked if examination scripts can be scanned or digitised before they are sent to Britain for marking.

A parcel of 238 A-level Chemistry scripts from Singapore was stolen from a delivery van in Britain last November en route to an examiner from Cambridge Assessment, the body which administers the examination and marks the scripts.

The theft of the Chemistry Paper 3, which carries 35 per cent of the marks for the subject, came to light last month.

While he did not elaborate, Dr Janil said the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) is looking into scanning examination scripts and having them marked electronically.

But he added that it was the first time scripts were stolen from Cambridge Assessment, which "is taking this unfortunate incident very seriously".

It has promised to review its processes to ensure the security of examination papers and scripts, including scrutinising the courier services offered by its suppliers, he said.

Despite extensive efforts to trace the scripts, they have not been found.

Affected students from Anderson Junior College, Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Junior College were eventually given a grade for their A-level exams based on their performance in the other three chemistry papers, as well as their cohort's performance in Chemistry Paper 3.

They were also given the option to resit the paper and have the better of their two grades recorded in their result slip and certificate. One-third of the affected students chose to do so.

Mr Murali asked how the SEAB ensured other students were not disadvantaged by its decision to give the affected candidates a presumptive grade, based on their performance in other papers.

To this, Dr Janil said it is an established method that has been used for other candidates, such as those who are unable to submit every component of the exam due to illnesses or other circumstances. The Ministry of Education, the SEAB and Cambridge Assessment have developed a number of mathematical models over time that can "quite robustly" predict or triangulate a candidate's final performance in an exam, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore looking at marking examination scripts electronically'. Print Edition | Subscribe