KUCHING: Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Most Reverend Simon Poh has welcomed the Education Ministry’s (MoE) bold move to schedule the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2021 examination for the school break in March next year to minimise disruptions to the academic schedule.
Noting that the SPM 2021 examination will also run on Fridays and Sundays during the period in March next year, he urged that this matter should not be turned into a religious issue when it was a practical decision.
In a letter he wrote to Catholic mission schools sharing the rationale behind this decision and also his observations on scheduling the examination during the school break, he expressed his support for this well-thought-through arrangement because of the pandemic.
“This is a good solution for this year’s SPM exam for the common good of our schools and students, which ultimately is what the school education system is meant for. Education for the common good of all Malaysians, irrespective of race, culture, or religion,” he said in the letter dated Thursday (Nov 18).
Regarding Fridays and Sundays as possible examination days, he said he had called the principals of mission schools in Kuching and they confirmed that they usually avoided those days. Having heard their views, he realised that there were practical and pastoral reasons.
“In analysing the 2022 term break from Feb 25 to March 20 and school reopening on March 21, we can see that the SPM (written) exam from March 2 to 20 was specifically scheduled during the term break before the school students return to school.
“The SPM 2021 written exam has been compressed into 19 days instead of being spread out for four to five weeks as in past years before the pandemic,” said Poh.
He pointed out that February next year would be used to hold practical examinations, and thus the written examinations could only be held in March next year after the completion of the practical examinations.
“And thus, the written exam has to be compressed to March 2 to 20 to enable schools to reopen for other students by March 21 next year,” he explained.
He said that although Fridays and Sundays would be affected due to this shortened period, it was good to note that the subjects on Sundays were elective subjects and not major papers.
He said that scheduling the SPM 2021 examination during the school break was good for the school administration as the regular school schedule for non-SPM students would not be disrupted.
“In past years, due to shortage of rooms, classes for certain Forms were cancelled or replaced with classes on Saturdays to give priority for SPM students to use the classrooms for their exam. This is not needed now. I believe this is a blessing for the already stretched school administration,” he said.
In addition, Poh said that from a psychological perspective, compressing the SPM examination to 19 days meant that students would not need to wait out for a total of four to five weeks to complete their examination.
“This is even more so when the SPM exam has been postponed from Dec 2021, extending Form 5 by three months, to March 2022. This uncertainty and waiting are unhealthy for this batch of Form 5 students.
“The school break for some teachers may be affected when they are called to return to help with Form 5 exam during school break. But this should be a sacrifice made willingly for the good of students,” he said.