MP Denise Phua Asks About Removing PSLE, Education Minister Responds

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MP Denise Phua recently asked during the Committee of Supply debate if Singapore would ever consider removing PSLE...

MP Denise Phua recently asked during the Committee of Supply debate on March 5, 2018, if Singapore would ever consider removing PSLE.

It is a question most of us parents have asked, when we see our kids struggling with mind-numbing Math and complicated Science. Why not kill PSLE instead of killing their childhood?

Is it right to decide a child's fate at the age of 12?

MP Denise Phua Asks About Removing PSLE

Ms Phua, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, recently raised the issue of removing PSLE altogether from Singapore's education system. She called the PSLE, "a sacred cow, a practice we have inherited for decades."

She asks, "I have many times in this House shared on how we need to remove this structural thorn in the flesh of the system. There are highly respected education systems globally which do not sort students at the age of 12."

removing psle

She also recalls what an MOE educator once told her, “Ms Phua, I know there are a lot of things to consider before we can abolish PSLE."

"But the fact of the matter is – if you ask a teacher if he/she would teach a differently in a class if there is no PSLE, I am quite sure the answer is a YES."

The educator apparently confided that there would be more time for future-ready skills, without the burden and pressure of PSLE.

"There is just not enough time and room to develop the skills they need to survive in the future world – skills like creativity, flexibility, the 21st century competencies that MOE has been emphasizing."

"We need more time to look into non-examinable subjects such as inquiry, discovering and development of strengths of our students. 

Are changes to PSLE enough?

removing psle

Of late, there have been some changes to the PSLE. In 2016, MOE announced that the aggregate score for PSLE would be replaced with wider scoring bands from 2021.

From 2021, there won't be a T-score. That is, pupils' scores will not be benchmarked against their peers. Instead, they just have to do the best they can in each subject, and their marks will get converted to the new scoring bands.

However, these measures have not really lessened the academic load on students (and parents).

MP Phua asks, "Could it be that it is insufficient to simply tweaking the system through changes such as PSLE banding instead of T-scores; by allowing subject combinations instead of removing the labels of Express, NA and NT and Special Schools?"

"Are we merely re-arranging the chairs on the deck and not making deep enough changes?"

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng responds

Meanwhile, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng has responded to MP Phua's argument. He has rejected this proposal of removing PSLE.

Minister Ng reasons that removing PSLE would only transfer the pressure on students and parents to other parts of the education system, like the O-levels and N-levels.

“Removing the PSLE and having a 10-year through train will only transfer the stress on parents and students elsewhere, such as at the P1 registration, and make the O-Level and N-Level exams most stressful.”

He agrees that the PSLE does not cast a child's potential in stone. And yet, it does serve as a "useful checkpoint" to gauge a child's academic strengths. And helps to guide the child to a suitable academic programme in secondary school.

Well, looks like the PSLE is here to stay for now. The debate continues.

Also READ: Preparing for PSLE - A guide for stressed parents

(Source: The Straits Times)