PSLE changes: Parents worry kids' weaker subjects will pull down results

A teacher speaks to pupils before the PSLE results are handed out at Eunos Primary School on Nov 25, 2015.
A teacher speaks to pupils before the PSLE results are handed out at Eunos Primary School on Nov 25, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Some parents are worried that their children will pay a bigger price for being weak in one subject, even though they excel at others, under the revamped Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system.

Under the current system, every mark matters. So higher T-scores in English, maths and science can make up for a lower score in Chinese, for instance.

But from 2021, scoring either 90 or 100 for a subject matters little, since the pupil still gets the same Achievement Level (AL) 1 score.

"It may be unfair. Doing extra well in a subject is not reflected in their PSLE score for those in the top tier," said civil servant Eric Goh, 38, whose six-year-old will be joining CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School next year.

Banker Serena Lam, 39, whose six-year-old daughter will be joining Yu Neng Primary next year, added: "Pupils may face more pressure because they can't use their stronger subjects to balance their weaker subjects. If I wish to get my child into a more competitive school, then I would try to get her to pay more attention to her weaker subjects."

Some parents said they will be more ready to consider tuition for their children's weaker subjects.

At its media briefing yesterday, the Education Ministry said that while the new scoring system will still allow good grades to "pull up" weaker ones, the impact will be smaller than under the current system.

 

Housewife Betty Kang, 35, who has a six-year-old daughter, said that regardless of the system, it is still important for pupils to work on their weaker subjects. "At the primary level, all the subjects are important for general knowledge, not just to gain admission to secondary school. Allowing kids to slack off in one subject simply because they are 'not good' at it is making excuses for them," she said.

Freelance writer Frances Tan, 39, who has a six-year-old daughter, agreed. "Ideally a pupil should strive to do well in all of (the subjects)."

Ms Esther Tan, 30, a Chinese teacher at Pioneer Primary School, said the new scoring system will ensure that pupils' skill levels in subjects are well matched to their new schools. "The ALs are meant to reflect pupils' levels and match them to the correct school, so that the schools know their learning gaps and can start moving them up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Parents worry kids' weaker subjects will pull down results'. Print Edition | Subscribe