It’s time to rally behind our students

FINALLY, or so we hope, the 2020 cohort of students sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and all other public exams can fully concentrate on their preparations.

This is the final lap, and with the Education Ministry confirming that there will be no postponement or cancellation of these exams, students who have been under tremendous pressure and dealing with fatigue and anxiety for months now have to dig deep and focus on the task at hand.

These students have been back in class since Wednesday for face-to-face learning, just as the ministry announced that schools which have not conducted SPM trials or only completed half of the papers no longer had to do so.

Allowing them back in school to attend classes until their exams are over despite the high number of Covid-19 cases and scrapping the SPM trials are measures meant to help the students make up for lost time and revise effectively for the real exam.

With less than a month to go before the exams kick off on Feb 22, these students cannot afford any more distractions or flip-flops.

Last year, it was announced that the May STPM (Semesters Two and Three) would be held in November instead. Then the year-end SPM and STPM (Semesters One and Three) exams were postponed to January and February this year.

This was followed by another announcement that the SPM would be moved to February and the STPM to March and April to give students more time to prepare and allow the ministry to make logistics arrangements.

Now a firm and final decision has been made.

On Friday, Education director-

general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim assured candidates that there would be no change in the dates announced and no lowering of exam standards despite calls to do so as students were left learning from home throughout most of last year, leading to many missing out on fully understanding the syllabus.

She explained that any changes to the exam format, semester arrangement, marking scheme or standard of questions would affect the exam’s international accreditation and the candidate’s chances of being accepted into a higher education institution.

While parents and students are still divided on whether to carry on with the exams as scheduled, postpone them or scrap them altogether and use an alternative method of assessment, the ministry is doing its best to ensure that the candidates are ready.

It can’t be denied that all quarters have the students’ best interests at heart, but there is no one right response.These are unprecedented times and with less than a month to go before the exams, our mentally exhausted students need some certainty and assurance that they are the priority in every decision made.

Now that we know the exams will not be deferred, it’s time to focus on ensuring that adherence to standard operating procedure is strictly enforced in physical classes, and that our students get all the support they can get in these trying times.

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