Media report extract with Commentary
20 Aug 2013
By: Roadside Observer
Singapore’s primary school leaving examination (Form 6) has always been the Mother of All Examinations.
The exam determines whether a Form 6 student could be accepted into prestigious Secondary schools. This remains the most intense “competition” among the students competing for a place in the secondary school they aspire to continue their studies. It has become a national issue as regarded by all parents.
Now that the government has just announced a fundamental change to the primary school leaving examination (aka PSLE) in which the new policy aims to lessen such humongous pressure on all parents and primary school students.
The core of the proposed change is aimed at so called a T-score system (exact total scores of a students in all subjects, e.g. a total of 250 points that a student scored as compared with another student who scored say, 265). The Education Ministry would change such a T-score system to grading system, e.g. A, B, C grades.
Some parents even requested that the new system be implemented immediately but some remain apprehensive about fairness of the new grading system, because it is not in exact terms/scores due to its broader range.
To ensure smooth transition from the exact total score system to the broad grading system, the following aspects should be considered,
– the new system should not be implemented immediately to avoid sweeping students and patents off their feet. Managing expectations is crucial in this exercise.
– the range (I.e. assigned scores) between two grades should not be too broad in order to maintain appropriate degree of discrimination between the exam/test standards between students. e.g. should consider having more divisions (I.e. A1, A2, A3, B1-4, C1-5, etc.) for each grade.
– management of standards of examination question bank becomes much more important with the new proposed grading system. Exam question bank needs to be professionally reviewed to maintain the standard of PSLE, allowing very good and outstanding students to be singled out. Instead of diluting the Discriminating Factor of identifying better students who have greater potential.
– for the purpose of improving fairness, other elements such as character assessment test, sports, special talents, etc. should be given the right attention and reflected as Auxiliary Scores that can be considered for admission into a choice secondary school, besides grading scores.
– no system is perfect especially when it is first introduced. There should be a review timeframe set for the new system but at the same time not to over react and resulting in drastic swings from one spectrum to another end. Otherwise, more students will suffer from the change, bring about more frustrated parents!
But a change is definitely needed and it is timely, judging from the feedback and situation.