SINGAPORE - A new rule that prevents secondary schools from taking in transfer students whose Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) scores do not make the cut makes the transfer process more transparent and fair.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) had put the rule in place last November to "ensure and assure parents and students that the system for appeals and transfers is transparent, objective, and fair to all students", Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said on Monday (March 14) explaining the rationale behind the guidelines.
Previously, secondary school principals could consider taking in transfer students whose PSLE scores fell short of the school's cut-off point, as long as there was a vacancy in the school.
Mr Ng said these transfer appeals hinged on factors such as good performance in co-curricular activities, past connections to the school, and proximity to a student's home.
Allowing transfers based on these factors will mean that they take precedence over the PSLE T-score, he said.
He added: "This will not be entirely fair or transparent to the many students who have a similar or even higher PSLE T-score, but had not been admitted in the Secondary One Posting Exercise."
As such, the MOE decided on a simpler system where only students who have qualified for the school will have their transfer appeals considered.
With the change in transfer guideline, more than 800 students were successful in their transfer appeals and managed to switch to another school.
Mr Ng said the majority of these students had met the school's cut-off point.
For those who did not, "their appeals were on the basis of medical, special needs or exceptional circumstances", he said.
Asked to elaborate on these cases, Mr Ng gave an example of a student who has a congenital problem that requires her bladder to be cleaned every four hours.
Although she did not make the cut-off point for a school nearer to her home, she had successfully transferred there after an appeal, he said.
The minister was responding to Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) who wanted to know the rationale behind the new directive.
Dr Lim also asked if MOE would allow secondary schools with vacancies to allow transfers in situations where the student's PSLE score was not significantly lower than the school's cut-off.
The new rule had taken parents and students by surprise - students were not explicitly informed of the change, and only found out when their transfer requests were rejected.
Mr Ng said that the MOE could have "done better in the communications" in implementing the new rule, and will learn from this experience to make improvements.
He said: "MOE appreciates the need for an appeals system, to help our students and their families cope with unforeseen circumstances. We will continue to exercise flexibility for appeals while maintaining a fair and transparent system."