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Changes to our Education System, begins with us

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Whenever Ministry of Education (MOE) tries to tweak the education system, there will be many responses. This year, MOE announced, “In the next five years, students can expect less emphasis on academic results, and more time and space to pursue their interests in schools as well as take part in outdoor activities.”

MP Denise Phua responded with a call to scrap the PSLE system as “The problem (stress) is unlikely to disappear even if we replace PSLE T-scores with banding. Students will start scoring 4As or 5As and so forth, and we are back to square one.”

She also spoke about how “… it is an “open secret” that the Direct School Admission Exercise, which lets students enter secondary schools based on achievements in sports or the arts even if their PSLE scores fall below the cut-off points, benefits children from wealthier homes.”

Mr Ng Chia Wee supported MOE’s direction tweaks, but suggested that we need to thread carefully, as non-academic opportunities, seem to still favour those who do well academically.

Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong responded to Mr Ng’s opinion by asking MOE to take more concrete action such as including CCA in exam score calculations.

Madam Grace Chua Siew Hwee disagreed with Ms Maria Loh saying “At the primary school level, at least, children should be encouraged to play various sports for enjoyment and health, and not look upon CCAs as another subject they are forced to take up. Children need the time to feel a little bored and start to doodle, tinker with things or invent silly toys.”

My View

It is hard to do away with the PSLE system. Once you have the chance to meet students from the different spectrum, you will understand that streaming is a tool that helps allocate suitable resources to each genre of students.

I have seen teachers from top schools transferred to neighbourhood schools, and could not be effective. Vice-versa too. So imagine the wastage if there is no streaming and we have T-score 140 calibre students and T-score 270 calibre students in the same classroom. The teacher would have to teach at the average of the class.

By having streaming exams, MOE facilitates allocating appropriate resources to aid students who are gifted, or who are late boomers. Unfortunately, as long as there is categorisation, humans will tend to judge these categories and try to arrange them in some sort of order.

Holistic, Diversity, Play are all good ideals in education we should work towards. However, on the other hand we are balancing, Effectiveness and Suitability.

For each and every child to have a chance to lead a successful life, we must provide the most appropriate support to guide them. This appropriateness does not happen by chance. It happens by good structures that help accurately identify what these students need.

The stress of streaming exams, and the stigma of being in a Normal stream cannot be erased. It is just human nature to game systems and to form judgments.

Only when parents realise that they are the control of their child’s stress / self-perception, can they help their child move towards a more balanced life.

- John Low


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