I hope to share the nature and intricacies of running a national examination ("Changes to PSLE, but exam will stay: Heng"; May 5).
I have 40 years of experience marking Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) papers, being a lead examiner for the PSLE oral examination and supervising PSLE markers.
This has given me an insight into the minefields to avoid for a smooth, efficient and controversy-free implementation of the national examination.
The committees set up by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to select and train setters and markers for the PSLE have their work cut out.
Setters have to minimise controversies over the form, content and suitability of questions, while markers must ensure equitability, consistency and reliability.
The MOE has a responsibility to ensure those chosen are able to carry out their tasks professionally, competently and equitably.
The task force of setters should be up to par on the latest teaching and learning techniques and the principles of education, as well as the dynamics of testing, including an intimate and current knowledge of the performance of the Primary 6 cohort.
They should preferably be practising teachers who have set papers for Primary 6 cohorts for many years, and whose papers have been fire-proofed through thorough post-marking item analyses.
Were yearly analyses carried out to determine if the PSLE questions were appropriate and balanced across the board for the high-flying, the average and the weak candidates?
This would tell us if the questions were balanced and appropriate for the spectrum of Primary 6 candidates.
Similarly, those setting the guidelines on marking the PSLE papers should be very experienced practising Primary 6 teachers.
I have come across marking guidelines with specimen marked scripts which, besides including spelling, grammar, punctuation or usage errors, also listed controversial mark ranges. This baffled many experienced markers and confused relatively new ones.
I have worked under inexperienced marking supervisors whose only credential was seniority in length of service.
No marker approached them for counsel or pointers on marking after they showed a lack of experience and competence.
Letter from Ho Kong Loon
This article was first published on May 26, 2014.
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