The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Coronavirus - Exams and repercussions

Tuesday, 31 March 2020, 08:13 Last update: about 3 months ago

Students have finally been given some proper direction in terms of their O’level and A’level examinations, and indeed the uncertainty before last Saturday’s announcement was a cause of concern for student who had to sit for these examinations this year.

Indeed one student organisation, SDM, had highlighted that to safeguard both the physical and mental health of students, SEC and MATSEC examinations should not take place on the dates planned. “We feel that it would be best to delay the current session of examinations by one or two months, depending on how the situation evolves in the coming weeks.”

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However this was not the exact course of action taken by the education authorities.

The education ministry announced that students who were to sit for their O’level examinations will be graded Level 2 or 3 according to their performance in the mock examinations held before schools were closed, and if they want, students could sit for the September session. Given the current situation in the country, this can be seen to make sense; however, at the same time, some students might not have taken the mock examinations as seriously as they would the actual exams. At least, however, the September session still stands.

The situation with regard to A’levels gets a little trickier. The spring session will be cancelled and replaced by an autumn session, with a resit exam scheduled take place in December. In addition, students will be able to start their course at university, MCAST and other institutions when they re-open for the next academic year, even in cases when they would have failed in the September session. While in principle this seems like a logical way forward, some consideration would also need to be given to those students who would start a degree course at one of the aforementioned institutions but then fail to get a required mark in a subject required for the course they are sitting in December. This could create a limbo period for such students, as technically the scholastic year would have started months prior to this as well.

As such, A’level students who are on the borderline must be extra careful and do their utmost to obtain the required grades for the courses they want to sit in the Autumn session.

The announcement that the schools are to remain closed until the end of June also creates a number of concerns. While in the current situation it is of course vital to follow the suggestions of the health authorities and take the necessary measures to protect the health of society, one cannot ignore the effects such a measure could have. First off, one must also mention the fact that such a decision indicates that the authorities are not envisaging a return to normal before the start of summer, and indicates that this new way of life could be with us, not just for weeks, but possibly months.

The issues this situation will create are twofold for students. Firstly, some teachers are better than others at online teaching, and thus the ability to engage students in the learning process will vary, meaning that some students might pull further ahead than others due to this factor alone. Students need to work extra hard to keep themselves engaged in their learning situation. Another situation linked to this is that some families might not be able to have access to their own computer, and would need to share it with their families, thus having limited time for online learning. Some children might not have access to internet. Something needs to be done to help these students out, either now, or through an intensive learning course once this situation passes.

Secondly, school is vital in helping children form social relationships and bonds with others. In a world constantly seeing children glued to phones and tablets, these few months could further engrain this style of life into their lifestyle. Parents would need to ensure that, after this whole situation passes, their children are exposed to the outdoors again and pushed into situations where they can mingle and socialise with their classmates and friends.

Until that time, however, social distancing is a must, and while some children will want to go outside and play with friends, as heartbreaking as saying no to such a request may be, no is the required answer.

 

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