The Straits Times
Published on Dec 01, 2012

An exam that's served its purpose


IF WE want to develop children into gracious, creative and confident adults, do away with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in the long term ("MOE stops naming top students"; Nov 21).

The PSLE has served its purpose. Its continued existence is creating a system where parents strive only to achieve academic excellence for their children.

To effect the change that we seek, we should adopt a 20-80 rule for the PSLE. That is, every pupil will still have to sit the examination and choose his secondary school. However, every school should be restricted to picking only 20 per cent of the applicants based on its selection criteria, be they excellent examination results, athleticism, artistic aptitude or religious links. The rest of the pupils should be randomly assigned.

The 20-80 rule may translate, for instance, to a pupil with a relatively low PSLE score of 216 having virtually the same chance as a pupil with a high score of 261 to enrol in an elite school.

Such a rule will force primary schools to put in more effort to help pupils develop more holistically, rather than focus almost exclusively on achieving good grades.

Not naming the top students will not reduce the competition for places in the top schools. Each child must be developed to his greatest potential, whatever that may be.

Lawrence Lim