Should we do away with PSLEs?

The PSLE might be over, but the debate of its relevance rages on. Find out what MPs as well as the man on the street feel about it and how your child could be affected.

Could parents see big changes in the long standing PSLEs? Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has mentioned that changes are on the way, but not to do away with the PSLEs all together.

Reducing exam pressure for parents and students

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that the present education system is unable to get rid of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), however he added that Singapore should instead see how it can lessen the pressure of a single examination and a single grade.

Mr Lee said it will take time for the authorities to think about it, and the government is not in a rush to make any changes.

Why the PSLE can’t be scrapped — yet

Mr Lee explained that the PSLE is required – firstly, to assess the child having finished primary school has attained the expected standard, and secondly that Singapore needs a method with which to post people to secondary schools and for the schools to choose the students.

Mr Lee stated: “Does it have to be exactly the way the PSLE is now done? I don’t think so. But how to change it, that we have to consider very carefully … Any change means students want a lot of notice, parents want a lot of notice and we should not upset or unsettle kids who are heading in a direction and need enough time to adjust to a scheme.”

Mr Lee felt why there was so much pressure on the PSLE was because people took the secondary school admission very seriously, which he saw as “..not correct.”

He commented that : “There are many points in life where you have to prove yourself and demonstrate what you can do. You don’t have to get into the right school and thereafter think that you are on an escalator … So really it’s your own ability and effort you have put in, the dedication of your teachers, and then you demonstrate what you can do at the stage of your life.”

PM Lee was answering the top 10 questions which received the highest votes on the website Singapolitics.sg.

Writing on his oficial Facebook page, Mr Lee said that Singapolitics received around 400 emails containing questions which gave a cross section of the concerns of Singaporeans.

An MP calls for examination to be axed

The latest attention given to the PSLE comes after a Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Member of Parliament Hri Kumar Nair posted in his blog about doing away with the PSLE. It was reported that Nair posted this view on his blog two weeks ago.

News of Nair’s opinion caught the attention of some netizens and parents:

Mr Yong Kee Say, 42, is hopeful that would happen. This, he feels, “spells less pressure” for his son, nine, and daughter, seven. They can barely cope in school: Other than scoring about 60 marks in Mother Tongue, the children’s results in the other subjects hover around 45 to 50 marks.

Says the technician in Mandarin: “It’s terrible, you know. I have no one to turn to. Who can help them? “And I cannot afford to send them for tuition.”
His wife, a diabetic, does not work and the couple can barely speak or understand English.

Mrs Gillian Fong, 42, is a parent who understands why others want a change in the system. The sales executive admits that she belongs to the group of ‘kiasu’ parents who push their children towards academic excellence. Her son is taking the PSLE this week, while her daughter is now in Secondary 2. She remembers the stress as her her elder child prepared for the exams:

“It was terrible. I pushed her so hard – tuition classes for all subjects and also insisted that she get into the school’s bowling team – so that she’d be guaranteed a spot in a good school,” says Mrs Fong. By the time her daughter finished the last paper, she was running a high fever and eventually had to rest at home for two weeks.
But now Fong says: “I regretted it so much, but I couldn’t help it because I just had to be certain she’d do well.”

Madam Siti Nisa Ahmad, 50, offers another point of view:

The housewife suggests: “Instead of doing away with PSLE, what about making the cut-off points less rigid?”. Her eldest son, 17, managed to get into the Normal (Academic) stream and her other two sons, 15 and 14, are now studying in the Normal (Technical) stream. Ahamd says:

“I think going through an examination at different stages is a good way to test our children’s standards.: Yet she why, “ But do we have to classify them into the best, the average and the below average?”

Mr David Oon, 39, who has a 10-year-old daughter, is against scrapping the PSLE. Oon is a part-time cabby who  believes that, “This common exam will serve as a good benchmark for our children to gauge their potential. The earlier they know how they fare (on a national level), the easier it is to plan their future.” Personally, I am in two minds over the call.”

What some of our readers say:

Margaret, aged 36, mother of 2 toddlers. “Even some small changes would be good to reduce the stress for the kids in school.”

Tony, aged 33, father of one nine-year-old son: “Should’ve started considering these changes several years ago. Now it is hard to to do it.”

Jason, 39, a father-to-be: “I hope the exam system will be different when it comes to my son’s turn in the future.”

Sources: Asia One, Today Online