There is back-up plan for exams: M.E.S.C.

The Ministry of Education Sports and Culture [M.E.S.C.] has a backup plan for students who are scheduled to sit their exams from Monday 30 November, if the country’s suspected COVID-19 case returns a positive result.

The Ministry, in a statement released by the M.E.S.C. Chief Executive Officer Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Afamasaga-Fuata’i on 23 November in response to queries from the Samoa Observer, said they have been contacted by concerned parents as Years 12-13 students’ examinations are scheduled close to Christmas.

She said the measles outbreak that hit Samoa towards the backend of 2019 was a “learning experience” for M.E.S.C. staff and they are prepared to ensure all health protocols are adhered to at all exam venues.

Students who show flu symptoms will be assessed and then sent home, according to the Ministry’s C.E.O.

“The Ministry is preparing to ensure that every health precaution and safeguard will be in place in conducting assessments and examinations given COVID-19,” said Afamasaga.

“M.E.S.C. will make certain that safe management measures will continue to be implemented in all venues during the national examinations, and that candidates and or students showing symptoms of flu will be fairly assessed and if need be, sent home to recover.”

In terms of safeguards and the scheduling of exams, the Ministry said their experience during the measles outbreak last year has proved invaluable. 

“Experiences with the measles last year 2019 which affected Samoa were a learning experience for the Ministry. 

“The Ministry is mindful of the COVID-19 situation globally and in the event Samoa is confirmed with COVID, an action plan for assessment is in place. Any changes will be made publicly available.”

In a normal academic year all schools, especially Government-run educational institutions, have four terms comprising 40 teaching and learning weeks. But Afamasaga said this year the Government declared the state of emergency [S.O.E.] on 20 March, which saw schools reopen three months later around 22 June. 

“Great consideration has been taken by the Ministry in its decision to push back dates for the national assessments for primary schools and the national examination for S.S.C. [Samoa School Certificate] and S.S.L.C. [Samoa School Leaving Certificate],” she said.

Afamasaga revealed that the cutback of classroom instruction hours has had an impact on the coverage of the curriculum across all levels of education, consequently, she said the examination delay is to compensate for the reduced hours in classroom instruction. 

“The Ministry understands the reduced teaching and learning hours and the impact this has on the coverage of curriculum across all levels of education,” she added. 

“As such the decision to delay the assessments and examination to the 30 November – 4 December for primary and the 7 – 18 December for secondary will serve this purpose.

“The importance of sitting valid assessments and examinations depends highly on the assurance that students cover full curriculum content.”

The M.E.S.C. decision to reschedule the exams was made available to school principals, teachers and school inspectors on 23 June and the public was advised through the Ministry’s website, Afamasaga said.

“Schools since then have rescheduled their school-based mid-year exams to accommodate the new timetable for S.P.E.L.L. [Year 2, Year and Year 6] and S.P.E.C.A. [Year 8] and S.S.C. [Year 12] and S.S.L.C. [Year 13].”

S.P.E.L.L. is the Samoa Primary Education Literacy Level assessment and S.P.E.C.A. is the Samoa Primary Education Certification of Achievement.

A M.E.S.C. press release on national assessment and examinations was distributed to all media outlets on 10 November as well as the M.E.S.C. website.

Private and mission schools that normally break for holidays earlier are also accommodating the need for their students to be at school during the days set for all examinations.

“The extra weeks are in fact used for revision to further prepare students for these assessments,” Afamasaga emphasised. 

She said all examination timetables and schedules for secondary exams have been distributed to schools and the Ministry website also has a countdown to the exams.

As of Tuesday, 24 November, there are five days left to S.P.E.L.L. and S.P.E.C.A. For older students in Year 12 who will sit the S.C.C. as well as Year 13 who will take the S.L.C.C. over a nine-day period, exams are 12 days away.

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