Many reasons for results that are ever improving

I share Mr Sum Siew Kee's concern that grade inflation may bring on a false perception that our students are up to scratch in their learning of subjects ("The case of the ever-improving exam results"; Tuesday).

I can hazard quite a few reasons why grades have improved, although they may not be empirically proven.

With rising affluence, more parents can afford additional resources for their children through tuition and enhancement classes.

"Parentocracy" is a hallmark of society's progress, but may separate the haves and have nots.

It may be synonymous with an unfair advantage for the better endowed to get ahead.

Nevertheless, as more children hail from the middle class, it is expected that more students will do well in exams.

The reduced syllabuses of many subjects in recent years may have contributed to better grades.

As the load is lightened, students may find it easier to ace the subjects.

It certainly lives up to the Teach Less, Learn More endeavour.

Educators and students alikemay also have become so attuned tothe examination formats andtrain of questioning that theycan anticipate the tricks in the questions.

This is possible to achieve by practising questions from previous years' papers and discerning a pattern or regularity in the typesof questions asked. It is not unheard of for students to "spot" questions.

It is also possible that those who set exam questions have exhausted all ways to test students' knowledge of the subject matter, making exams predictable. Students may have been sensitised to keywords and nuances in questions, with the attendant answers from memorisation.

With the explosion of information brought about by technology, students gain access to knowledge quickly, and this may have greatly aided learning.

Notwithstanding the above postulations, we cannot rule out the possibility that students may have become smarter in their own right.

With better standards of living, including nutritional intake, their bodies and minds may have developed robustness in taking on challenges.

Teachers, the silent warriors in our classrooms, should also be applauded for shoring up standards all around.

But the true test of our students comes when they pit themselves against overseas compatriots for admission to competitive institutions abroad.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Many reasons for results that are ever improving'. Print Edition | Subscribe