PSLE T-score to go in a few years’ time

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering his 10th National Day Rally speech at the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) Ang Mo Kio campus on Aug 18, 2013.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering his 10th National Day Rally speech at the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) Ang Mo Kio campus on Aug 18, 2013.PHOTO: ST FILE

Instead, pupils will get grade bands much like system for O and A levels

SINGAPORE - The way Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores are calculated will be changed in a few years’ time, as the Government moves to cut excessive competition and stress among young children.

Instead of an aggregate T-score, pupils will get a grade band, similar to how students get A1 to F9 for O levels or A to E in the A levels. 

These grades will be converted into points for admission into secondary school – very much like the system used at O and A levels.

“An A* is still an A*, whether you score 91 marks or 99 marks,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night during the National Day Rally, without detailing how the PSLE will be graded. 

He explained that the current system, which has been in place since 1980, sorts children too finely and adds to stress.

There cannot be barriers to entry. Outstanding students must always be able to make it to the top, to get into these institutions, and you cannot have a closed self-perpetuating elite: I am here, my children are here, you’re not in this magic circle, you can’t come in... We must have many pathways in our system, an open system.
– PM Lee, on top schools

PM Lee pointed out that even a one-point difference, between a T-score of 230 and 231 for instance, may make a difference to which secondary school a student is posted to.

Such fine distinctions should not carry so much weight. 

“At the age of 12, one examination, four papers and you want to measure the child to so many decimal points... a distinction which is meaningless, too fine to make,” he said.

He recalled that when he took the national examination in 1963, the scores were confidential and students were told only if they passed or failed and which school they had been posted to.

“Luckily I passed,” he said to laughter from the audience.

He said using a broader grading system will reduce excessive competition in chasing that last point, and allow schools more space to develop their students holistically.

He assured parents that the new scoring system will only be in place in a few years, a point Education Minister Heng Swee Keat stressed in his Facebook post later, calling on pupils preparing for the PSLE next month not to worry.

The PSLE has been one of the most debated topics in the year- long Our Singapore Conversation, with many criticising the high- stakes examination for placing too much stress on children.

Parents interviewed yesterday were all for the change.

Madam Patricia D’Cruz, 40, who has a son in Primary 3, even hopes the Education Ministry (MOE) will make the revision before her son sits his PSLE.

PM Lee, who announced other tweaks in education, including Primary 1 registration, said on the whole Singapore has an excellent education system. But it is important that education opportunities continue to be open to all.

In his post, Mr Heng admitted that “there is no perfect policy that can satisfy everyone”.

But “taken together, these are very significant changes”. “They will ensure that our education system remains open and inclusive.”