Ideas to improve the education system raised at National Conversation session

Ideas on how the education system can be made more inclusive and less grade-centric came thick and fast at the second National Conversation session on education on Wednesday night.

Among the suggestions raised by some 50 participants divided into 11 discussion groups: reduce the weightage of the final exams in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to half, and include a wider range of factors such as continuous assessment or talents in areas like sports and music.

Other participants proposed matching students to schools according to broader grade bands rather than specific scores. This would mean students can then be allotted to schools by balloting or by admission tests administered by the individual secondary schools, a participant suggested

Wrapping up the session at Manjusri Secondary which lasted over three hours, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat conducted quick straw polls on some of these suggestions and fielded questions from participants.

"All the inputs that we hear will be factored (into) our discussion," Mr Heng told reporters later. Amid an ongoing national debate about high-stake exams and social mobility, Mr Heng said the Government would have to consider the various options carefully as "whatever changes we make in one part of the system will have implications on other parts of the system". Other participants, however, pointed to fundamental issues that have to be addressed first, such as changing societal mindsets about what a "good school" means as well as the social stigma and pressure children feel from the streaming system.