EDUCATION: SPM anxiety lives on, even in the ‘new normal”” The Star

THE Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) is stressful under normal circumstances and sitting for it under the cloud of a year-long pandemic is a whole different ballgame.

The SPM 2020 cohort was the first in the country’s history to endure close to a year of home-based learning as schools closed their doors for months to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The 401,105 candidates saw the exam postponed twice from late last year to January and then to February this year.

On top of having to deal with a global health scare, online learning and changing exam dates, these students had to follow strict new norms – masks, temperature checks and social distancing – while sitting for the exam.

It did not help that there was an alleged leak of the History paper – which is still under probe.

The exam started on Feb 22 and ends today (March 25).

But for many of the candidates, the anxiety remains as they ask themselves questions; Questions like “when will the results be released? Do I have enough As for a scholarship and could I have done better?” will be on their minds.

Additionally, the Education Ministry explained that lowering the exam standards was not feasible as any changes would affect the exam’s international accreditation and affect a candidate’s chances of being accepted into a higher education institution.

The SPM is usually held in November and December and results released in March but with the postponements, it will be a challenge to complete the marking before the Hari Raya celebration in May.

However, the ministry has said that it is doing its best – including increasing the number of markers – to ensure that students get their results fast so that they continue their tertiary education journey or join the workforce.

All the papers – except Seni Visual – will be marked online. The new system is expected to accelerate the marking process without compromising on its quality.

The ministry had promised to work towards releasing the results “as early as possible” – hopefully faster than previous years.

Despite these assurances, it is understandable if students are still worried given the challenges they’ve had to face.

Parents, teachers and society must help this cohort cope with feelings of uncertainty and stress especially when learning solely for the sake of knowledge is an ideal we are still struggling to achieve in our education system.

These students must know that they can come to us for mental and emotional support.

Do the number of As matter – yes, especially if you’re dependent on scholarships or if there’s a specific varsity you’re eyeing.

But is it the end of the world if you don’t do as well as you had hoped to? No.

Learning is a lifelong journey and the SPM is a very small part of that adventure.

Regardless of the results, we as a society must assure the amazing SPM 2020 cohort that it will be okay.

So, when the results are finally out, instead of asking,”how many As did you score?”; say,”no matter what the outcome, you’ve given your best and that alone is good enough”.

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