Why It Matters

Beating PSLE grades fixation

It's not the end of the road if you do not do well in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Following the release of this year's results last Wednesday, several Singaporeans shared that they had done well for themselves despite their poor PSLE grades.

This is the fourth straight year that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has withheld the names of the top performers. Since 2013, MOE has also not published the highest and lowest scores of pupils in a cohort.

The moves were taken by the ministry to drive home the point that academic success is not everything, and some Singaporeans are showing support for this.

After this year's results were released, acclaimed film-maker Royston Tan and lawyer Josephus Tan, who both did not fare well at the PSLE, wrote Facebook posts to encourage pupils whose grades did not shine. The posts drew positive comments from many other Singaporeans.

Several parents are yet to be convinced. Some went online to compile their own lists of top scores. They say these lists help them decide which school to send their children to.

Most worry about the schools their children will get into and how this will affect their future.

In reality, the PSLE - the first of possibly many major exams - is merely a tiny piece in a much larger picture. Stories of individuals who beat the odds despite their poor grades show that success is not measured by one's academic scores.

Last Wednesday, besides celebrating their top scorers in groups rather than individually, schools also recognised pupils who improved greatly, overcame the odds or did well in non-academic areas such as sports.

One principal said that in 20 years' time, nobody would recall a pupil's PSLE results. She added that, instead, they would remember if a person had been a caring friend or stood up for what was right.

We have made some progress in focusing on factors other than academics. But perhaps more Singaporeans - especially parents - should recognise that a child's potential cannot be measured by grades alone.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2015, with the headline 'Beating PSLE grades fixation'. Print Edition | Subscribe