SINGAPORE: The national year-end exams in Singapore will proceed amid the COVID-19 pandemic with safe management measures in place, but students who have COVID-19 or are in isolation will not be allowed to sit for the exams.
“The national examinations are an integral part of teaching and learning, and we also know that the results of the national examinations are important for the progression of the students to the next phase of their educational journey,” said director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong on Friday (Aug 21).
He assured parents and students that “very strict safe management measures” will be in place during the exams.
The written exams will be held from Sep 14 to Oct 16 for N-Level students, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) from Oct 1 to Oct 7, O-Levels from Oct 19 to Nov 12 and A-Levels from Oct 26 to Dec 2.
According to figures provided by MOE, about 98,000 graduating candidates will take the national year-end examinations this year. An additional 22,000 candidates who are not from graduating cohorts will also sit for their respective O-Level and A-Level examinations.
Safe management measures include temperature taking and visual screening of all candidates, designated toilets or staggered toilet breaks, as well as staggered dismissal timings and segregated entry and exit routes.
All candidates will wear face masks when reporting to the exam venue, and can replace them with face shields when seated at their desks, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) in a press release.
“However, they must put on the face masks when they leave the examination venue, such as for visits to the toilet or at the end of the examination,” they said.
Students will be seated 1.5m apart from one another, with up to 30 in each classroom. Larger venues like school halls will be zoned, with up to 50 candidates in each zone and at least 3m space between zones. Each venue will have a maximum of 250 candidates.
All schools have been encouraged to implement a “study break” for this year’s graduating cohort ahead of the exams, said MOE in a media briefing on Friday. This is to minimise the risk of a big number of students having to be quarantined or put on leave of absence as a result of COVID-19 cases in schools.
The length of the study break will be decided by the schools, depending on the profile and needs of the students as well as existing school practices, added the ministry.
READ: MOE's approach to COVID-19 cases is to 'ring-fence' on a ‘small scale’ instead of closing schools: Ong Ye Kung
EXCEPTIONS FOR CANDIDATES IN ISOLATION ON “CASE-BY-CASE BASIS”
To “ensure they do not pose a risk to others”, students with COVID-19, or who have been placed on quarantine order, stay-home notice or leave of absence will not be allowed to sit for the exams, MOE and SEAB said.
Exceptions can be made “on a case-by-case basis” for those on stay-home notice who travelled out of Singapore for compassionate reasons, such as to attend a funeral or visit a critically ill next-of-kin, said the education ministry.
Those allowed to take the exams will sit for the papers in a centralised venue managed by SEAB, individually in a room and not allowed to mingle with other candidates. The room will also be thoroughly wiped down after each paper.
They will also not be allowed to take public transport to the exam venue, and will have to take their own private vehicles or pre-booked taxis, said the press release. Invigilators will be provided with personal protective equipment and will oversee the exam from outside the room to minimise contact with candidates.
Candidates who are on leave of absence due to close contact with COVID-19 cases will not be allowed to sit for the exams. However, those who are on leave of absence because they stay in the same household as someone in quarantine will be allowed to take the exams if they test negative for the coronavirus.
Other candidates who are on medical leave due to acute respiratory infections will also be allowed to sit for the examinations if they test negative.
STUDENTS WITH RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS TO BE TESTED FOR COVID-19
Currently, people aged 13 and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection at first presentation to a doctor are tested for COVID-19.
From Sep 17, 14 days before the start of the PSLE written exams, students taking the papers this year will also be tested for COVID-19 at first presentation of acute respiratory infection before and during the exam period, said MOE and SEAB.
“This will allow for the early detection of candidates with an active COVID-19 infection,” they said.
Students will not have to pay for the swab tests, said MOE. The cost of the tests arising from a diagnosis of acute respiratory infection will be paid for by the Government if they visit a Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) or a polyclinic.
"After government subsidies, students who are Singapore citizens and permanent residents will pay a flat subsidised rate of S$10, which covers the consultation, medication and investigations, including the swab," said MOE.
"International students will not need to pay for the swab but will need to pay for consultation and medication, subject to the charges of their chosen medical clinic."
An exception will be made for PSLE students seeking urgent medical attention at KKH from Sep 28 to Oct 7, or just before the examinations begin and throughout the examination period, said the education ministry. MOE will bear the consultation fees as they will be significantly higher, at about S$120.
The cost of the tests for students who are placed on leave of absence because they live with an individual on home quarantine order will also be covered by MOE.
READ: Travellers who serve stay-home notice outside of facilities after entering Singapore must wear electronic device
Students on approved absence due to staying in the same household as adults with flu-like symptoms will be allowed to sit for the exams with enhanced safe management measures in place.
These enhanced measures, which will also apply to candidates who are on leave of absence or medical leave but allowed to take the exams, include seating them in a separate room from other candidates. They will be seated at least 3m apart with a maximum of 10 candidates per room.
“Precautionary measures will also be taken to ensure that these candidates do not mingle with the other candidates, including designated toilets, separate entry and exit routes for each examination room with deconflicted arrival and departure timings,” MOE and SEAB said.
Those who miss the national examinations “with valid reasons” can apply for special consideration.
“All special consideration applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis and subjected to a rigorous review process,” the press release said.
“Special consideration is actually a post-examination adjustment of marks to the candidates who are being affected by the exam due to the adverse circumstances. What we will do is to consider multiple sources of information to make sure that these candidates will not be affected and they’ll be given a fair grade,” said SEAB chief executive Yue Lip Sin.
The board will consider evidence of the candidate’s performance from sources such as his performance in the other papers for the affected subject in the national and school-based exams, as well as the school cohort's performance in the national and school-based exams.
“We urge all candidates and staff to continue practising good personal hygiene and exercise social responsibility,” MOE and SEAB said, adding that they will monitor the COVID-19 situation and provide updates if there are changes to the exam arrangements.