It was already bad enough to hear that the recent SPM examination questions were recycled.
It grew worse when the Ministry of Education declined to appear before the Special Select Committee on Education to provide explanations for the allegation concerned.
The refusal also suggests a disrespect towards Parliament and is disrespectful of the Malaysian people, who are also seeking answers.
To be sure, Sections 16 and 17 of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 authorises the House and any related committee to order the attendance of witnesses and to ask for documents submission.
Neither Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin nor ministry officials showed up, said panel chairman Maszlee Malik, who was education minister in the Pakatan Harapan cabinet.
The controversy emerged after complaints were made that the 2021 SPM Malay language exam questions (comprehension) were reused for the second session of the exam this year.
The second special SPM session was for students who were unable to sit for the earlier exam owing to Covid and floods, as well as those who were given special exemptions by the director of exams.
It is disturbing that such an issue of public interest and importance was not addressed squarely by the Ministry of Education before the panel, as it may have serious implications for the ministry’s professionalism and integrity, as well as those of the Malaysian Examinations Board.
Surely, these institutions are aware of how important it is to ensure that exam questions are well crafted and vetted and that high standards are maintained.
Appearing before the panel would help assure the public, particularly concerned parents and students, that the ministry takes the principle of transparency and accountability seriously.
The refusal to attend the meeting may even lend credence to a suspicion that the ministry has something to hide.
The panel meeting is also to address the public’s concern that students who took the exam in the first session might have been short-changed if the exam questions in the second session were indeed an exact copy of that in the first session. In other words, students in the second session might have the advantage of having seen the questions set for the first session, which is clearly unfair.
If it is true that the exam questions were recycled, the ministry obviously would need to address the issue urgently so that any dereliction of duty would be dealt with accordingly.
If there was indeed a recycling of the questions, it would give a bad example to students who expect high standards of professionalism among those assigned to set the exam questions.
Furthermore, it may give a sad impression that those who supposedly recycled the questions lacked resourcefulness. Could they not resort to, for instance, a question bank for an alternative set of questions?
Relying solely on the first session questions is nearly as bad as having the exam questions leaked.
To reiterate, it is crucial for the Ministry of Education to clear the air.
Given that education is crucial to nation-building, it is vital that our young generation get the kind of education they truly deserve so they can play a useful role in the development of our country.
It is also hoped that a good education system would help guide the young away from unhealthy activities during their spare time.
What needs replication is quality education. – The Malaysian Insight