Business Times - 10 Dec 2004
Maid's test needs fine-tuning
By JAIME EE
I GOT the answer wrong.
I was taking a test that I saw in The New Paper, which reproduced sample questions in a compulsory test that maids will soon have to pass before they are allowed to work in Singapore. The question was: 'You are alone with a baby at home. The baby keeps crying. What must you do?' The multiple-choice answers were: give the baby some fever syrup; take it to the park; telephone the employer at once or; wait for the employer to come home. The correct answer was to call the employer at once. But I picked 'take the baby to the park'. Well, it seemed logical to me. What was I supposed to do, call my employer and then pass the phone receiver to the baby? Like, duhhh ...
There was another one which had a picture of four items and the question: 'Which of the items should not be stored with the other three?' The four items were a bottle of Coke, a carton of milk, a can of insect repellant and a tube of what looked like potato crisps labelled 'cheese'. Well, of course the insect repellant shouldn't be with the other three. But the other three shouldn't be together either. The tube of cheese crisps shouldn't be stored with the Coke or the milk, which should be kept in the fridge. Or, if the Coke isn't meant to be drunk soon, it could be kept in the cupboard, with the crisps. But the milk, unless it is UHT, should always be in the fridge. And if it is UHT, which the question does not specify, it should be kept in the fridge immediately after opening. Are you confused? Be thankful you're not a maid. I think a few rocket scientists wouldn't be able to answer some of the questions either.
Which brings me to the conclusion that maybe the person who drew up this test also did the recent PSLE science paper. So maybe they should rethink the questions in the test. Or at least get a better illustrator who will not make a crying baby look like a very fat cat that just got flattened by a car.
Or maybe they should make employers take a test. Particularly those who keep changing maids every few months. The questions could be tailored to assess the employer's needs and expectations, and the results would determine whether the employer wants a maid or a Harvard-trained professor with excellent vacuuming skills who is also an atheist and will therefore not bring any weirdo things into the house.
Some sample questions could be: 'You see your maid speaking to another maid. What is your immediate reaction?'
a) They are having a casual chat;
b) They are exchanging recipes;
c) They are plotting to kidnap me, steal my money and run away with their boyfriends;
d) Change maids since it's still free replacement period.
Or, what about: 'You notice money missing from your wallet. What could have happened?'
a) I could have misplaced it.
b) The kids took it.
c) The maid stole it, bought sexy lingerie and intends to sneak her boyfriend into my home after I've gone to bed.
d) This would not have happened if you'd let me change maids earlier.
And what would all this testing prove? That some people are good at drawing up test questions, test results can always be manipulated, a test may get you a lot of right answers but not necessarily the right people, and at the end of the day, uh ... actually, can you repeat the question?