Prestigious physics competition rescheduled at 11th hour due to technical glitch

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SINGAPORE – A prestigious physics competition for secondary school students has been postponed after students could not log into the competition website on May 15.

When contacted, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Institute of Physics Singapore (IPS) said on May 17 that the Singapore Junior Physics Olympiad will be rescheduled to Term 3 of the school year, which is between July and September. They did not provide a new date for the competition.

Organised by IPS with support from MOE, the annual competition encourages the study and appreciation of physics among secondary school students. Schools regularly post their achievements in this competition on their websites and social media, and some tuition centres help students prepare for this olympiad.

About 104 secondary schools registered some 2,300 students for the competition, which was scheduled to be held online, in 2024.

MOE and IPS said an IT vendor had conducted checks before the competition to ensure that the server was able to conduct the online competition. This included load testing, or making sure that the system can still work properly when accessed by many users.

However, technical issues arose during the competition which led to some students not being able to log in to the competition website. The statement by MOE and IPS did not elaborate on the type of issues experienced.

Students who are unable to participate in the rescheduled competition will receive a refund of their registration fees, MOE and IPS said, adding that more information will be shared with secondary schools when available.

“We recognise the passion and commitment our students and teachers put into preparing for the Singapore Junior Physics Olympiad, and share their disappointment with the technical issues,” a spokesman added.

MOE and IPS are working with the vendor to investigate the incident and prevent it from happening again, the statement read.

In a circular sent to participants, their parents and teachers on May 17, IPS apologised for the technical glitch and asked for their support.

“Many students would have been very disappointed by the rescheduling…Rest assured that we will learn from this incident to improve future events,” it read.

In a thread on the Reddit forum, multiple users complained about the technical error, with some commenting that the competition should be held in-person.

An affected participant, who did not wish to be named, told The Straits Times felt that his efforts studying had gone to waste.

The student said: “I honestly felt quite frustrated because my friends and I spent a lot of time preparing for it. My school also spent resources in order to help my friends and I to achieve good results, and I feel that it was all in vain.”

A Secondary 4 student, who did not wish to be named, said the postponement made him “dejected due to the sunk cost put in”.

He said that it is common for schools to hold after-school trainings for participants with school alumni and teachers.

Some schools hire vendors to train the students, with the costs covered partially or entirely by the school, he added.

He said: “I spent time at home studying for the competition, sacrificing time that could be used for my regular subjects.

“Nonetheless, I am glad to have gained information that would be useful in junior college.”

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