Last July 31 and August 1, 2013, the Grade 8 students took their IPSLE, or International Primary School Leaving Examination. This test was designed to measure the effectiveness of Xavier School’s curriculum when it comes to Singaporean math and science. It was also used to benchmark how well Xavier is doing compared to other schools in Singapore. During the orientation last July 30, it was explained that if you did well in the test, the benefits would be plentiful, but if you did poorly, education in Singapore would not be a likely scenario for you.
In preparation for the tests, the Grade 8 students were given worksheets and reviewers. It would have been an understatement to say that my class was very worried. The reasons for this were: 1. each reviewer was, on average, nine pages long; 2. formulas to the questions asked were long forgotten; 3. we were worried that we were not getting reviewers for science, only for math; 4. we thought that the test was going to be the same length as the reviewers. At first, these were found by the Grade 8 students to be annoying and like extra baggage because they often added weight to the already heavy workload that Xaverians were given during the week. However, in the end, many people agreed that they would have done much more poorly if they did not have these reviewers.
On the day before the exam, the high school principal, Mrs. Jane Cacacho, discussed in great detail the protocol for the two exams, and the schedule of the exam days. She also explained that if classes were suspended in the Philippines, we would still take the exam, unless Singapore declared the suspension. In other words, it would take something very extreme for us to not take the test. Lastly—and my batch mates agreed that this was the best part about the IPSLE—Mrs. Cacacho declared that instead of going to school at 7:30, we were to come in at 8:30, which meant another hour of sleep.
On the day of the test itself, we were nervous for the math test. When I entered the classroom, many of my classmates were crowding around the whiteboard, arguing about what the formula for a particular geometric shape was. It was a tense environment, and the atmosphere of the event made you forget everything else that was happening around you.
We were surprised when we started the test, because compared to our reviewers, the test was just plain easier. The first test was only around 25 – 30 items long, and it had fewer complex problems too. After recess, we headed back to the MPC to finish the second part of the test, which was harder than the first, but still easier than the reviewer.
The day after, we had our science exam. Unlike the previous day, we were expected to go to school at 7:30 a.m. because we still had our first period of school, and so we took the test after recess. The test was shorter than the math test. However, the test was full of essay-type subjective questions, which were unlike what we were used to before.
I felt nostalgic while taking the tests because it brought me back to simpler times. The questions and lessons covered in the tests brought me back to when the assessments were purely written quizzes and tests, when number grades were used, when we had worn khaki pants, and when Xavier was under a different, but equally skilled man. Ultimately, it reminded me that a lot of change may happen around you without you noticing. We cannot stop it because change is inevitable, and everyone should expect more change in the coming quarters and years to come.