National Day Rally 2013: Highlights on education
We bring you the highlights of PM Lee's National Day Rally 2013 speech, with a special focus on education for the next generation.
Last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong chose to present the National Day Rally 2013 speech at ITE’s new Ang Mo Kio headquarters, marking his “long-standing commitment to invest in every person, every Singaporean to his full potential”, and “also to signal a change, to emphasise that this is not the usual NDR.”
“Singapore is at a turning point,” PM Lee added.
PM Lee sincerely addressed the concerns many Singaporean parents have in regards to education in his two-hour speech. He raised two perspectives on education in Singapore: the MOE perspective and the perspective of Singaporean parents and children. The former being that all schools in Singapore are good schools, while on the other hand, many kiasu parents will still look for “ingenious” ways to get their children into schools that are better because of an ingrained mindset that elite schools are the best.
He raised the need to maintain meritocracy and openness in school admissions, something that will be eroded if nothing is done to change the present situation. “There cannot be barriers to entry… you cannot have a closed self-perpetuating elite: I am here, my children are here, you’re not in this magic circle, you can’t come in… We must have many pathways in our system, an open system.”
In order to maintain such an open education system, MOE will put in place the following changes, starting as early as next year.
All primary schools will be required to keep at least 40 places for children with no alumni, sibling or school links from next year. Admission to primary schools during the annual Primary 1 Registration Exercise has become too competitive, especially for popular schools and this new measure goes some way towards addressing this problem.
This is perhaps the one measure that many Singaporean parents will warmly welcome with arms wide open. The current PSLE system has not changed since 1980 and students receive their PSLE results knowing what their aggregate T-score is. The PSLE T-score will now be substituted by wider bands for grades, similar to the grading system for the O and A levels, PM Lee outlined in his speech during National Day Rally 2013. The point is to “reduce excessive competition” and take away unnecessary stress that students have to bear during their final year in primary school. The new grading system will kick in in a few years’ time.
RELATED: Should we do away with PSLEs?
More good news: Secondary 1 students in all streams [Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical)] can take a subject at a higher level if they did well in that subject in their PSLE. Students no longer have to wait until Secondary 3 before they can take subjects at O-level. This is to allow students to build on their stronger subjects and learn at a pace that is suitable for each individually.
In addition, more students will now be accepted through the Direct School Admissions (DSA) based on special qualities such as character, resilience, drive and leadership, broadening the criteria beyond sporting and artistic talents.
All these changes signify the Government’s commitment to recognising every child as a unique individual. It is distancing itself from the old mindset that focused solely on academic testing. Whilst it may not resolve all the issues of primary school admissions, this move towards a more holistic approach that aims to nurture the unique talents and character of each child is definitely worth celebrating for Singaporeans.