Find new ways to test students but keep standards, varsities told

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PETALING JAYA: With the number of Covid-19 cases increasing, the higher education ministry has told universities to find new ways to fairly and thoroughly assess students if examinations cease to be an option.

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They must ensure that 2020 graduates are held in the same regard as other graduating classes, said the ministry’s director-general, Mohamed Mustafa Ishak.

The ministry previously called for a deferment of in-person registration in response to the spike in Covid-19 cases seen over the last month.

Speaking to FMT, Mustafa said universities must ensure the high quality of alternative assessment methods such as essays and virtual presentations so that 2020 graduates would be held in the same esteem as those from different cohorts.

“They must change the mode of assessment without lowering standards,” he said. “We don’t want to compromise on the quality of graduates being produced.”

Mustafa noted that some institutions had systems in place to facilitate online exams but said these were not widespread.

“The trouble is that it is not something that every university has in common. So, for those that cannot do it online, we told them they have to change the mode of testing.”

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Ooi Tze Howe, president of the Higher Education Malaysia Association, agreed.

“There can be all types of ways to assess the capabilities of students,” he said. “I always think that academic assessment isn’t just about exams.”

However, for certain courses that involve practical assessment components, such as engineering, he said the 2020 cohort would inevitably be hindered after graduation.

“There could be a vast difference between students in courses like engineering since there would be a gap in technical skills between those who graduated last year and 2020’s graduates.

“This could affect accreditation for those students as there is a year’s worth of disrupted practical sessions.”

Mustafa said there might not be an alternative solution for those taking professional accreditation exams run by international bodies, which would require stringent SOPs to be established for in-person testing.

“For these kinds of exams, there is no choice,” he said. “The integrity of the exam can’t be compromised.”

He said instances of cheating could arise even during in-person exams, making it nearly impossible to conduct these tests through online portals. -FMT

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