Parents, pupils will get time to adjust to PSLE changes

With the PSLE makeover, instead of getting a score out of 300 points, pupils will get grade bands. (Right) Kong Hwa pupils mingling on the day they received their PSLE results last year.
With the PSLE makeover, instead of getting a score out of 300 points, pupils will get grade bands.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

The makeover of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is still some time away, with the announcement to come next year at the earliest, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Parents and pupils will be given enough time to respond and adjust to the changes when they are implemented, he added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said two years ago in his National Day Rally speech that the high- stakes exam would be revamped, and the aggregate T-score done away with.

Instead of getting a score out of 300 points, pupils will get grade bands - similar to how students get graded from A1 to F9 for the O levels or A to E for the A levels. The grades will then be converted to points to be used for admission into secondary schools.

Mr Heng said the Ministry of Education (MOE) is already putting diverse programmes in place in primary and secondary schools to meet the needs of different children. For instance, each secondary school has to develop two distinctive programmes by 2017 to cater to students' interests.

"It is about choosing the school that has the programme, the emphasis and the fit, rather than about that one school that you must go to," he said.

Recent SkillsFuture initiatives - such as the Earn and Learn programme for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates as well as the introduction of modular courses at the post-secondary level - also aim to send a message to parents and students that the emphasis is on lifelong learning and helping students enter their areas of interest, said Mr Heng.

"Some of us may take a longer pathway to reach our peak. Some of us may take a shorter pathway, and some will take a path less travelled and go do something completely different," he said.

"There are many good pathways and I don't need to cram at just the PSLE level and say that I must get into that one school."

The MOE is still in the process of implementing programmes in secondary schools - especially in neighbourhood schools - to create differentiation, said Mr Heng.

These initiatives to create a more diverse secondary school landscape, with different schools offering different niche areas, will come before the PSLE revamp.

"Some parents believe that a certain school will help their child succeed better... It will take some time for this mindset to change," said Mr Heng, adding that the end goal is not just about grades, but also about finding success in life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'Parents, pupils will get time to adjust to PSLE changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe