I REFER to the letter, “Gross errors in exam papers” that was published in The Star on Dec 6.
Up till today, there has been no reply whatsoever from the Ministry of Education or any spokesperson for the Lembaga Peperiksaan and this silence is indeed deafening.
I reiterate here that the mistake I pointed out with regards to the SPM 2012 Chemistry Paper 1, Q20 asking for the chemical pair that “produces the highest heat of neutralisation” has two answers, namely involving both hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid reactions with potassium hydroxide.
If you look through the Chemistry Textbook Form 5 (p169), you will see clearly written these words, “sulphuric acid, H2SO4, is a strong acid, sodium hydroxide, NaOH, is a strong alkali. So, the heat of neutralisation is –57 kJmol–1”.
Thus, so long as it is a reaction between a strong acid and a strong alkali, the heat of neutralisation will always be –57 kJmol–1.
Nevertheless, enough of chemistry lessons. What I wish to also share here is that the same mistake, ascribing the value of a higher value when involving sulphuric acid, is perpetuated in at least three SPM revision books by reputed publishers.
In fact, I found only one revision book where the correct fact is mentioned and it takes no second guess who the author of the book is. He is an accomplished writer of chemistry revision books especially at STPM level even from my Form 6 years in the 1980s.
As I pointed out in my earlier letter, there seems to be gulf between Form 5 level Chemistry and Form 6/college level Chemistry. There are also other instances where a chemical equation is perfectly acceptable worldwide but is sadly rejected according to the SPM marking scheme.
On top of that, how many SPM chemistry “graduates” realise that in electrolysis, anode is the positive pole but when in a voltaic cell, anode becomes negative pole, and more crucially the reason behind this seemingly contradicting paradox.
What I can conclude is that the state of our Malaysian education has entered a phase of self-contentment, accepting the standard we are currently in. Well it works while we are still within the shores of Malaysia.
Yet sadly, a shocking experience awaits the unsuspecting and ill-equipped young Malaysian in his undergraduate years.
BOO SOON YEW Penang The STAR Online Home News Opinion Saturday December 15, 2012