Spm Students Seek Alternative Academic Assessment

Form Five students of SMK Dato’ Razali Ismail in Kuala Terengganu returning to school on Jan 20. PIC BY GHAZALI KORIKUALA LUMPUR: With the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination around the corner, candidates are appealing to the government to come up with an alternative academic assessment to secure their future, considering the mental anguish and hardship that they have endured amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The students, who were supposed to sit the exam last year, should have finished school by now and if not for the movement control measures, they would now be waiting for the SPM results before enrolling in their preferred universities in the middle of the year. However, many say they are now staring at an uncertain future.
SPM was originally slated for Oct 5 to Nov 19. It was moved to Nov 16 to Dec 7 when the first Movement Control Order was enforced in March last year.
In June last year, Senior Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced that SPM would take place from Jan 6 to Feb 9, 2021. In November, the ministry decided to move the dates for SPM, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia to Feb 22, 2021.
Nurul Rifayah Muhammad Iqbal, 18, said many of her peers shared on social media the difficulties they faced when schools had to close during the school terms.
"A lot of them are struggling with mental issues. They also face problems accessing lessons online or are unable to study at home as there are so many people sharing the space. There are also stories of abuse," she told the New Straits Times.
Nurul Rifayah said many students were not ready to return to school to sit the exams.
"We have had a traumatic year and we know that the exam can determine our future. But many of us who didn't have the opportunity to keep up will be left behind when the results are announced.
"So all we ask is for the government to understand our predicament and find ways to solve these issues by coming up with a way to assist with our academic evaluation, apart from the sit-down exam like SPM."
Nurul Rifayah, who is the youngest in the family, believed that the traditional exam evaluation for secondary school students should be replaced with a wider assessment this year, such as combining their academic performance from Forms 1 to 4.
"I believe many of us are not ready to sit for SPM. We are also scared of going back to school following reports that students have been infected by the Covid-19 virus after returning to school," said the science student, who lost her mother to breast cancer before the SPM trials last year (later cancelled following the Conditional MCO).
"I do not think extending SPM again would solve the issue. If anything, it will prolong the mental burden," she said, adding that some countries, including Cambodia, had decided to automatically pass all students sitting major exams in light of the pandemic.
"For those who want to pursue tertiary-level education, they can sit separate university intake examinations instead."
She also suggested that students be allowed to take additional elective coursework, which could be assessed by teachers from other schools.
Chin Win Che, who wanted to pursue Psychology, said she faced trouble keeping up with virtual learning at home due to an unstable Internet access and a faulty laptop.
"The 2020 SPM students should be given a choice on how they are assessed academically, with forecast exam results used as well. If they are not happy with their forecast results, they can sit the SPM."
Chin said some tuition teachers warned students not to use mental issues as an excuse to avoid the exams, by dismissing the genuine issues that the students faced.
"In many cases, we keep our mental issues to ourselves. If the teachers find out, they will think that we use them as an excuse and will then inform our parents about it.
"In the end, we are the ones who will be admonished."
Apart from the danger that the pandemic posed, some students faced problems dealing with floods just as they were preparing to resume studies, she said.
Muhammad Danish Haziiq Rudeen Iskandar said cancellation of school terms and the postponement of the exams had taken a huge toll on him that he eventually attended classes half-heartedly.
"I was in high spirits at first. But now, I feel as if my dreams are no longer achievable.
"I feel like I have let my parents down," said the accounts and science student, who wanted to pursue Information Technology at Universiti Teknologi Petronas and receive a scholarship.
"It was hard to follow the classes because most of the lessons require you to grasp them from a practical point of view," he said, adding that his school decided to continue with the trial exams last year.
When asked if he would sit for SPM, he said that he would, but hoped the Education Ministry would come up with an alternative academic assessment for students.
"I hope there is a way for us to to apply for university scholarships. What's more important is how to continue with our tertiary education after SPM." - NST

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