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05 Feb 2019
Ministry of Education
Negative View - 187
Missing O-Level papers

I refer to the news that 32 answer scripts for the GCE O-Level Additional Mathematics Paper 2 are lost because the examiner marking them had his bag mistakenly taken by someone on a train in England.

I’m dismayed that action has not been taken quickly by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate — otherwise known as Cambridge Assessment — to address such situations, especially since A-Level Chemistry scripts already went missing the year before.

I'm surprised by the comments made by Ms Tan Lay Choo, chief executive of the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), where she said in a press release that the authorities ensured that affected candidates were “given a valid and fair assessment for their Additional Mathematics examination”.

SEAB said that, together with Cambridge Assessment, it took into consideration the 32 affected candidates’ performance in the other Additional Mathematics Paper 1, which makes up 44 per cent of the final grade, relative to the entire cohort’s overall performance in the subject. They also considered the candidates’ school preliminary examination results.

Short of candidates re-sitting for Paper 2, these measures are arbitrary and randomised at best, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) ought to re-evaluate if this is truly a professional and best fit.

It is common knowledge that many students perform far better during the final O-Level examination than at the preliminary examination. Therefore, considering the preliminary exam performance is a flawed concept.

This latest episode begs the following questions that MOE and Cambridge Assessment are obliged to consider when responding to parents' queries on this serious matter:

  • What effective actions has Cambridge Assessment taken since the last episode of the missing A-Level Chemistry scripts, to ensure the safety of students' answer scripts?

  • Will MOE consider marking the scripts in Singapore under the aegis of Cambridge Assessment’s chief examiners and comprising senior teachers or heads of departments to ensure that such incidents do not recur?

    This will be a critical milestone in ensuring the safety of the scripts and simultaneously enhancing the professional competence and training of teachers here, including savings on time.

  • Why was Ms Tan from SEAB so tentative when she said "we are also looking at whether there is a cause for us to seek penalties"?

I would urge her to be firm in her response that it is indeed Hobson's choice that Cambridge Assessment should be asked to pay a hefty fine for failing to ensure the safety of all answer scripts, not forgetting the numerous hours our students spent in preparing for the final examinations.



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