No need for exam if student has learnt well
The exam exemption policy at Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) is sound as it caters to both fast learners and those who need more time, said pedagogy expert Dr Yeap Ban Har.
"If a teacher has ample data, then there is no need to go and get more just because it is the done thing," said the principal at Marshall Cavendish Institute, which carries out teacher training.
"Why subject the student to another test when there is already ample data that the student has learnt well?"
Similarly, a student who needs more time to absorb the lesson content can still do well in the year-end exams, which make up 70 per cent of the final exam grade, Dr Yeap, 45, added.
At HCI, Secondary 1 to Secondary 3 students can be exempted from their year-end examinations if they consistently hit 80 per cent for their term tests and assignments.
These tests and assignments make up 30 per cent of their final grade, while the year-end exams form the remaining 70 per cent.
If exempted from the year-end exams, students are automatically graded a distinction for that subject.
Sec 4 students are not eligible for this exemption. They either sit their year-end exams or, for those who did badly in Sec 3, take their O-level exams.
An HCI spokesman said this is a "long-standing exemption policy for students who have performed exceptionally well throughout the year".
Those exempted can then dedicate more time to research and community projects.
He added that it is based on the school's belief that education should not only foster academic excellence but, more importantly, nurture passionate individuals who will "serve the wider community".
A spokesman for the Education Ministry said that schools need to "exercise professional judgment" when it comes to such policies.
"Assessments are an integral part of learning used to assess a child's mastery in his learning, identify his or her strengths as well as areas for improvement. It would also help schools determine whether students have attained the necessary academic foundation to cope with their next level of learning.
"School examinations are one form of assessment, but there can be other forms of assessments. There can be exceptional circumstances when students are unable to sit for the school examination, for example due to medical reasons or family emergencies." he said.
Dr Yeap, who taught at the National Institute of Education for more than 10 years, agreed.
"Examination is to assess learning. There are many ways to get assessment data on learning and examination is one of them," he said.