Should mid-year exams be scrapped?

When MOE announced last September that mid-year exams for Primary 3 and 5 as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students would be removed by 2021, I am sure many parents (and kids) rejoiced at the news  – nice lah!

On the face of it, it’s a great piece of news. It signalled a move away from the over-emphasis on grades and nudged schools (and parents) towards inculcating the joy of learning. I think on balance it is a good initiative.

In fact, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday (28 May) at the Teachers’ Conference 2019 that by next year, more than 90 per cent of secondary schools here will scrap mid-year examinations for Secondary 3, while more than half of primary schools will do likewise for Primary 3 and 5. This is one year ahead of schedule! I think the Government would love to pride this as their efficiency. Haha!

ong-ye-kung-schools

Some teachers I spoke to cautioned about the potential pitfalls of this change. Some of the less academically inclined students as well as less motivated students may suffer as a result.

Although we will probably see more continual assessments, the mid-year exams are actually a good rehearsal for the year-end exams, and eventually the national exams like ‘O’ or ‘N’ Levels.

Putting students through exam conditions at the mid-year point will help them cope with the stress and pressure of the year-end exams. If not, they may get a rude shock when sitting for the year-end exams. Machiam like cold-start your car, and it might stall – get it?

In addition, less motivated students may get complacent without mid-year exams. It is often when they do poorly for the mid-year exams that they realise how far they are from performing at the year-end exams. And that might give them a kick up at their backside to start studying harder before it is too late.

Doing away with mid-year exams will probably benefit the brighter students more. They are already self-motivated and don’t need exams for extra motivation. The removal of the mid-year exams will probably mean more time for co-curricular activities or enrichment programmes (I hope, fingers crossed).

Overall, I do think this is a good move. But the over-emphasis on grades will not be solved by just removing the mid-year exams. It is part of the entire eco-system already, as seen in the numerous brand-name tuition agencies and enrichment centres that kids go for at a tender age.

Sadly, the rat race in Singapore starts early. I do hope teachers will pay extra attention to the weaker students so that they do not get left behind by a well-meaning initiative. Meanwhile, good luck to all present and future students!