Challenge for parents to accept that grades are not important

In its earnestness to reduce the stress in our education system, the Government constantly says that grades are not everything (A look at PSLE scores - to get parents to look beyond grades; Sept 17).

Parents generally welcome this, but we need to get real.

While there are successful individuals with poor PSLE scores and not-so-successful people who have good scores, they are outliers who cannot be used to establish a norm.

In a meritocratic society like Singapore, where experiential evidence supports a higher probability of success among individuals with good grades compared with those who performed poorly, it is a challenge for parents to accept that grades are not important.

In the absence of a guarantee that success can be achieved with poor grades, good grades become a natural hedge.

By saying that grades are not important for success, we risk marginalising education and undermining our reputation of having an exemplary education system which produces individuals who are in demand.

The voices of people unceasingly emphasising that grades are unimportant usually belong to those who have benefited from good grades and who ensure that their children go to top schools and universities.

Hence, it makes the case less credible and more difficult for parents to buy.

Ultimately, there ought to be a balance. Grades are important but should not be overemphasised. Otherwise, why commit so much resources to our education system?

However, this can be tempered by introducing elements to produce more holistic, innovative, creative and entrepreneurial individuals.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline 'Challenge for parents to accept that grades are not important'. Print Edition | Subscribe