The past few days have seen heated debates on whether the PSLE (read: bane of all 12-year-olds in Singapore) should be scrapped. The most fervent supporters of scrapping the PSLE have been from concerned parents, many of whom are “bearing the brunt” of prepping their children for the dreaded exam. Understandably, the PSLE has been long viewed as a means to an end – a spot in one of the top Secondary schools and the culmination of years of hard work on the child’s part, where any mis-step spells doom for the child’s future. Having survived the PSLE examinations ourselves relatively unscathed, we decided to explore whether scrapping the PSLE is really the best solution.
Rationale for PSLE
Traditionally, the PSLE was put in place for 2 reasons:
1) Uniform way for the education system to measure a student’s level of competence from Primary school and benchmark him/her against the national standard.
2) Following that, the PSLE score is also used as a means to allocate students spots in Secondary Schools and also as a way for the Secondary School to assess if a student would be able to keep up with the school’s teaching pace.
Concerns about PSLE
Many of the concerns highlighted from parents are valid issues that require deeper consideration. For one, many are unhappy that students are being type-casted into moulds based solely on academic results as they believe that each student is unique and that their capabilities should not only be measured by a single yardstick. Others have brought up exam-related stress and anxiety resulting in poor performances while some blamed the PSLE for not allowing late-bloomers the chance to develop their full potential because their PSLE results placed them into a school that may not be as suitable.
The PSLE is a deep-seated practice that would need careful consideration before making any drastic changes. Instead of scrapping it, we feel that it should be re-examined. One immediate solution that came to mind is to make the PSLE a combination of components that could be spread across Primary 5 and Primary 6. The final exam itself could make up 40% to 50% of the final score but the inclusion of continual assessment grades or projects over the course of two years would provide a better picture of the students’ capabilities. Afterall, isn’t it better to assess whether the student has been consistently producing good work as opposed to having an excellent memory.
Another idea thrown up by Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar was to link Primary and Secondary schools without the need for a common exam. We hesitate to push for this as we foresee parents going into a frenzy to ensure that their child then gets into the Primary school of their choice so as to also secure a spot in a “good” Secondary School. This might cause parents to give undue pressure to their child at an even younger age.
As the debate rages on, our two cents is that there will be limited effectiveness of the proposed solutions if parents’ don’t change their mindset on how academic success is defined. If parents themselves continue to measure their child’s academic success by his/her school’s perceived image or the grades they get, they would unwittingly become the root of the problem they are trying to solve.