Examleaks and public examinations in Malaysia

The primary school standard six’s Ujian Pencapian Sekolah Rendah (Primary School Achievements Examination or UPSR) science paper has suffered Examleak, and it was confirmed as this article was written that the UPSR English paper was also compromised. Now12 years old students at primary schools in Malaysia have to pay for the consequences of Examleaks this year.

It seems that nothing in Malaysian public examination system can be kept secret any more. The students and their teachers are the ones having to face the psychological and mental stress due either to the incompetence of those involved or to a system that needs major revamping.

I recalled that back in the 1970s, out of curiosity, my late father, a primary school principal who had never formally learned Malay decided that he should take the Malaysian Certificate of Education’s Malay paper. That year was the first I heard of the leaking of public examination paper. My father was not happy to have to take the MCE Malay paper twice. Nevertheless, he passed with a “credit” grade, much to his joy and unexpectation.

There were many Examleaks cases since then, but each time the lesson learned was quickly forgotten as if the various organizations charged with the duty to ensure fair conduct of public examinations have collective amnesia or have what I call a lack of “organizational memory”.

One of the most famous Examleaks cases was the 2001 leaking of the Certificate of Legal Practice examination papers. At least in this case the culprit was caught, prosecuted and punished. I do not recall anyone else from the many other Examleaks cases being caught least of all being punished.

In the late August 1980, I was just waiting to enter GEC “A” levels studies in the UK when I was asked by my former classmates to obtain University of Cambridge’s “O” level examination papers for Summer 1980 for them. I dutifully carried out this task and happily my friends received their papers. According to one of my friends (who related this story to me much later on) coincidentally, a few questions in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations bore close resemblance to the questions of the Cambridge’s examination papers that I sent back to Malaysia. I was told that two students from another school that somehow got hold of the Cambridge’s paper that I sent gave near identical answers and Examleaks was suspected. I think that case was a “false positive” but it did show up the kind of sensitivities that Malaysians held to the integrity of public examinations. One would have thought, with this sort of sensitivities about Examleaks, very few cases would be seen after the 1980s. Well we have been proven wrong.

Normally in all strategic public examinations (and even for college examinations that I ran as a deputy principal) there will always be two sets of examination papers for each subject. In my case, I would, as the head of academic of my former college, be the one who would choose which of the two sets to use. I am sure in the latest cases, there must be “2nd sets” for all subjects. Thus one way to thaw the effort of those “Examleakers” is to print both sets and sent these to the relevant centres in advance. The decision on which of the two sets to use for each subject can be made on the day by the relevant Director General or his/her designated senior officers. This way, unless both sets of papers are leaked, the Examleakers have only at most 50% chance of getting the correct paper! We can then spare the suffering of the poor UPSR students of the class of 2014.

As the leaked UPSR science paper was posted on social media, it should not be long for those with the power and tools to identify those involved. Hopefully, someone will be caught and face the consequences of this misdeed.

To all the unfortunate UPSR students and their teachers, May The Force Be With You

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