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Pupil with stomachache and respiratory infection misses PSLE English paper due to PCR test

SINGAPORE – Financial manager Sally Ang’s daughter had a stomachache the night before her first Primary School Leaving Examination paper on Thursday (Sept 30) but the doctor found signs of a respiratory infection and had her tested for Covid-19.

As it turned out, the antigen rapid test (ART) she took that night was negative.

However, Education Ministry (MOE) rules require pupils to also get a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to take the exams.

For Mrs Ang’s daughter, the PCR test result did not come in time.

That meant her daughter could not sit the PSLE English paper, leaving Mrs Ang cursing herself for taking the child to the doctor for stomach pain.

On Thursday, Mrs Ang got back the result of the PCR test, which was negative, and the girl will be able to sit the maths paper on Friday.

Mrs Ang, 41, said: “It’s a whole year of effort down the drain for her. I understand the need for Covid-19 protocols but this is very frustrating.”

For the past few weeks, Mrs Ang said, the whole family scaled back social interactions to lessen her daughter’s chances of contracting Covid-19 before the exams.

Her daughter is also not recorded as a close contact of a Covid-19 patient, she added.

However, now they have no choice but to put the whole thing behind them, and hope the stressful episode will not affect the girl’s performance for the remaining papers, said Mrs Ang.

She said: “My daughter had a tough time with home-based learning and she didn’t do that well for her prelims in August, so we were really hoping that she could use the PSLE to pull up her grades.

“But I don’t understand why the rules have to be so stringent. She tested negative for the ART so surely she could have done the exam in a separate room or something like that.”

MOE, in a statement on Sunday, said pupils who miss national exams for valid reasons will receive projected grades based on their past exam results and other factors like the school cohort’s performance.

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The annual PSLE kicked off on Thursday with the English Language written papers. It will end next Wednesday.

Pupils will sit the mathematics paper on Friday.

On Sunday, MOE said pupils who have received Covid-19 quarantine orders (QO) and those on a leave of absence will be allowed to sit the exams if they get a negative PCR test result at the start of the QO and a negative ART result within 24 hours before each exam.

Singapore is now battling the largest surge in coronavirus cases, which has resulted in many students being quarantined.

Some parents had earlier said they found the new rules confusing.

Madam Elisabeth Fong, 46, whose son just finished his quarantine order on Wednesday and took his English exam on Thursday, said everything ran smoothly

“He said the paper was easier than his prelims,” the secretary added.

She said she was anxious when it was unclear if her son could take the paper, but now took a different view.

Madam Fong said: “I’m thankful that MOE saw the seriousness of having many students under QO, and altered the rules allowing affected students to take PSLE as long as they test negative for Covid-19.”

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Parents of children who have so far been unaffected by the new Covid-19 rules said the PSLE marks the end of a stressful year made more difficult by Covid-19 restrictions.

IT professional Audrey Morais, 40, said her focus now is to help her son manage better his stress and emotions.

She said: “There have been so many disruptions due to Covid-19 and he’s missed out on many things, academically and socially. I’m just really appreciative of his teachers who have put in a lot of extra effort to help.”

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