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Are Scoring Changes to the PSLE Enough?

01 Jul 2016

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The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) has been perceived as a high-stakes rite of passage for students, and parents are known to try various means and ways to ensure that their children achieve top academic success in the examination and get into the “best schools”. Unfortunately, this has led to much stress for our 12-year-olds.

The PSLE is a useful checkpoint to help gauge the students’ understanding of key concepts.  But to move away from an over-emphasis on academic results, the PSLE T-score aggregate will be replaced with wider scoring bands from 2021, similar to that of the O-Level examinations.

The wider scoring bands would reduce overly-fine distinctions between students’ academic performance, so students need not face pressure in chasing every last point.  This fine-tuning of the education system will also give students more space to discover and develop their talents.

With the new PSLE scoring system only implemented in five years, parents and students will also have more time to understand the system completely so that anxieties would not be overwhelming. Secondary schools will also have the chance to develop and mature their distinctive programmes, so that the graduating students can see the possibility in choosing the right school that is a right fit with their passion and interest.

But are the changes to the PSLE scoring system enough to reduce society’s over-emphasis on examination results, and is it enough to help us realise that grades are just part of a bigger story?

All hands on board for mindset shift

Unfortunately, this is no silver bullet. It would take more than just scoring changes to our students’ first national examination. It would take many hands to shape society’s values.

Parents play a major role in moulding their children’s educational journey. The new PSLE scoring system is meant to relieve students from the pressure of chasing after every last point in their examination, and in turn free up some time for holistic education.

This can only be achieved with parents’ co-operation. For instance, if parents continue to sign their children up for more tuition and enrichment classes, the change to the PSLE scoring system would not serve its purpose.

Employers too need to play a part.  While students are too young to seek employment at the age of 12, employers do have an impact on how society views examination grades.

This over-emphasis on academics has translated into narrow definitions of success, and is often revealed through employers who hire or promote based solely on academic qualifications. Employers need to look beyond the grades attained in school, realise the value of the talents and skills their employees possess, because there is more than one path to success.

In all, changes to the PSLE scoring system is but a small step. Society at large needs to widen the definition of success. This change will not happen overnight and we will need everyone to play a part in writing a new chapter in our students’ education journey.