SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) have announced that the national year-end exams will proceed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with special arrangements to keep students safe.
The written exams will be held from Sep 14 to Oct 16 for N-Level students, while the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will take place between Oct 1 and Oct 7. Exams for O-Levels will be from Oct 19 to Nov 12 and A-Levels from Oct 26 to Dec 2.
Safe management measures, including temperature taking and safe distancing, will be put in place for candidates taking the examinations.
Here are some frequently asked questions based on information released by MOE and SEAB so far.
Q: How and where can students get tested for COVID-19?
A: Candidates who are on leave of absence because they stay in the same household as individuals on quarantine will be allowed to sit for the examinations if they test negative for COVID-19, said MOE and SEAB on Friday.
Other candidates who are on medical leave due to acute respiratory infection will also be allowed to sit for the examinations if they test negative for COVID-19.
Currently, individuals 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 examinations, students taking the papers this year will also be tested for COVID-19 at first presentation of acute respiratory infection before and during the examination period.
A graduating student who is unwell, especially with respiratory symptoms, should see a doctor at a General Practitioner (GP) clinic participating in the Swab-and-Send-Home (SASH) initiative, or a polyclinic.
A list of GP clinics participating in the SASH initiative can be found at www.phpc.gov.sg.
If diagnosed by the doctor to have acute respiratory infection, the student will be tested for COVID-19.
PSLE students who display symptoms close to the examination date from Sep 28 and during the examination period should seek medical attention at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).
This is to ensure timely diagnosis and notification of results, should they be diagnosed with acute respiratory infection and need to be tested for COVID-19.
Students taking the N-, O- or A-Level exams who display symptoms close to the examination date, or four days before the start of their exams, should seek medical attention at polyclinics to ensure timely diagnosis and notification of results.
While awaiting notification of the COVID-19 swab test results, students must stay home and will not be allowed to enter the examination venue.
Students aged 16 years and younger should be accompanied by an adult for the swab test. This facilitates consent-taking and communication to both the student and accompanying adult on the precautions to take note of while awaiting the test results at home.
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Q: As national examinations are essential for progression, can special provisions or alternative arrangements be made, such as online invigilation for candidates who are confirmed cases or who are on stay-home notice and home quarantine order?
A: As online invigilation essentially involves candidates taking examinations at home, the fairness and integrity of the national examinations may be compromised, said MOE and SEAB.
There are no plans for online invigilation arrangements, they added.
“It is also important for us to consider the challenges faced in the management and provision of resources for online invigilation, given that it involves the administration of the examinations in individuals’ homes.”
Q: What happens if there is a confirmed case in a school during the national examinations?
A: If there is any confirmed cases in a school during the national examinations period, all close contacts of the confirmed cases will be identified, and schools may suspend classes and activities for disinfection and deep cleaning of affected areas, as well as for contact tracing investigations to be completed.
Special consideration will be applied for affected students to ensure that they are not disadvantaged for the national examinations. Students who are unaffected will either continue to take their examinations in another classroom block within the school, or in an examination venue managed by SEAB.
Q: Will the year-end national examinations be called off or postponed if we enter another "circuit breaker", or if the COVID-19 situation worsens? In this case, how will candidates be assessed?
A: Postponing or cancelling the examinations would be a last resort, said MOE and SEAB.
Should the COVID-19 situation worsen considerably, and it is necessary to enter another circuit breaker, MOE and SEAB will review their plans in tandem with the national posture.
Q: Will special arrangements be made for candidates taking the year-end Science practical examinations as well? What will be the safe management measures in place?
A: The same arrangements will apply for the year-end Science practical examinations – candidates who are confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection or on quarantine order, stay-home notice or leave of absence due to close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases will not be allowed to sit for the practical examinations.
Candidates who had travelled out of Singapore for compassionate reasons and were placed on stay-home notice will also not be allowed to sit for the examinations. This is because the conduct of the Science practical examinations requires unique equipment and logistics, such as a science laboratory, said MOE and SEAB.
Candidates who miss the examinations can apply for special consideration. Similarly, candidates on leave of absence because they stay with individuals on home quarantine order or those diagnosed with acute respiratory infection will be allowed to sit for the science practical examinations if they test negative for COVID-19.
Similar safe management measures will be implemented for the practical examinations. These candidates will take their science practical examinations in the last shift and will be assigned to a separate laboratory with a cap of 10 candidates per science laboratory, instead of 20. They will also be seated 3m apart.
The arrival and dismissal time, as well as reporting areas, will be deconflicted to reduce intermingling between different groups of candidates.