Singapore has recorded its best performance at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) since the national exam was introduced in 1960.
About 98.3 per cent of pupils from this year's cohort did well enough at the national exam to move on to a secondary school, up from last year's 97.6 per cent.
From 1980 to last year, the percentage of students eligible to enrol in secondary schools ranged between 81.7 and 97.8 per cent.
Associate Professor Jason Tan, an education policy expert at the National Institute of Education, was not surprised by the improvement.
"The PSLE remains a high-stakes exam for pupils," he said. Every school has in place teaching and learning strategies to maximise exam success at the PSLE."
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, explained that the better results over the decades could be due to parents putting more emphasis on their children's education.
The Education Ministry noted that the overall performance of this year's cohort was comparable to that of previous years. It added that factors such as good teaching programmes, strong teachers' commitment and student motivation could have contributed to the better performance of these students.
Pupils this year were the first to take the revamped PSLE English papers, which include greater scope for exam candidates to provide a personal response in speaking and writing, among other changes.
The ministry did not name the top scorers when it released the results yesterday morning. It also did not reveal the highest and lowest scores achieved by pupils in the cohort.
Yesterday, some schools recognised their top scorers in groups rather than individually. They also celebrated the pupils who showed great improvement, overcame odds in their lives or did well in non-academic areas such as sports.
Eunos Primary principal Jennifer Choy asked top scorers and those who had overcome challenging circumstances to go on stage. "The PSLE (aggregate score) is just a number. It doesn't represent the worth of each child," she said. "At the end of the day, the child has a lot more potential, which is not measured by this number alone."
At Haig Girls' School, pupils with scores of 250 and above were asked to stand while schoolmates applauded. Those who showed improvements or performed in non-academic areas were also recognised.
"We wanted to celebrate the effort and journey, and not just the result," said principal Constance Loke. "In 20 years' time, nobody will remember your PSLE results. But they'll remember if you have been a caring friend, exemplary leader or have stood up for what is right."
Of the 39,286 Primary 6 pupils who sat the PSLE this year, 66.2 per cent qualified for the Express stream in secondary school, slightly lower than the record 66.7 per cent achieved by the class of 2013.
Another 21.7 per cent were eligible for the Normal (Academic) stream and 10.4 per cent made it to the Normal (Technical) stream.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated pupils, and their parents, for completing a milestone in their learning journey. "Take time to celebrate and choose your next school," Mr Lee added. "Regardless of where you go, I am sure you will find it rewarding, and learn and discover many more things."