Sharing of common sense and wisdom…

Commentary by:  Roadside Observer 

This extracted article (partly) was posted on The Middle Ground on 18th July 2016. Read some of the key points the writer Mr.Ip mentioned as follows, then ask yourself as parents whether it is truly the outcome he tries too hard to explain? 

Whatever Mr. Ip tries to ‘conclude’ for the New PSLE Scoring System, he has missed out the following key factors that will surely influence the most probable scenarios, they are 

1. No matter how the system is changed, it will not reduce stress level for both the parents and kids. The simple main reason is that, in today’s competitive society and job market, parents would continue to emphasize on ‘winning on the starting line’ approach for their kids. Many parents knew exactly what it will mean if their kids end up in ‘so so secondary school’ after the PSLE final exam. Try to convince them about the notion of “Every school is good school”. The fact remains, the number of places in those ‘good schools’  are limited. So competition remains strong. 

2. The PSLE or the mother of all Exams for Singapore in itself has the basic function of establishing a ‘logical distribution curve’ (normally it would be a bell curve) for every cohort of students. Otherwise, there is no basis for what group of students to be admitted to what (band of) schools, though there’s a saying that ‘all schools are good schools’. This basic function is regardless of what kind of scoring system is used. However, the new system also allows additional ‘sub-criteria’ such as affiliation, application choices, ballots etc. for further moderations if there’s a tie (it is expected to be quite many such cases). To maintain any meaningful distribution curve for every cohort of PSLE students, one should bear in mind that the scoring system is NOT the only tool for the purpose! It needs to work hand in glove with the framework of examination papers setting & developmepment. Simply put, the ‘discriminating factor’ (difficulty level, ie. Differentiates the best and also higher prformence students from the large pool) for examination papers can vary from year to year and can be different on each subject as well, depends on real experiences and trends.  The whole purpose is to prevent a funny overall distribution curve to happen; example: a sudden surge of 30% attain the top AL1 grade and >40% in the AL2 grade on most subjects/papers etc… One can imaging what will happen if such kind of irregular curve happens for one of the cohorts!? 

So, there’s no such thing as the new system is more absolute and it can settle all issues. For any examination system to work for a good purpose, it cannot miss out one key element: Competitiveness. Ie. Participants have to work hard in order to excel. 

3. Therefore, regardless of what scoring system is introduced for PSLE, the stress to perform better (than most) will always be there. Unless we do away completely with the PSLE. And to convince parents to forgo any single ‘advantage’ in the system in order to reduce stress for themselves and their kids, it remains a formidable task for the govt., if not mission impossible. Knowing Singaporeans, parents may push even harder when the new scoring system commences… 

The answer to the 2021 New PSLE Scoring System: It does not necessarily solve the issues (ie. Parents’ concerns and competitive stress) once and for all but, at least it has incorporated some ‘useful’ moderations pegged with the scoring system; hopefully to make things ‘easier’ for parents and their kids. No stress? It’s not true. Less stress? Maybe for some. 

The greater meaning of this change of PSLE Scoring System is embedded in the notion of mindset change. 


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