Make room for non-academic achievements

I agree that the latest change in the Primary School Leaving Examination grading system is a step in the right direction to reduce pressure on pupils chasing that final mark, and at the same time allow them to be meaningfully sorted for secondary school posting ("New PSLE scoring system to have 8 grade bands"; Thursday).

However, the focus of the Achievement Levels (AL) grading system still emphasises academic achievements, with not enough recognition given to the non-academic but equally important achievements.

It would be good to give schools some discretion to allocate some places to students who may not have met the schools' cut-off point for admission but who have achievements in other areas - like leadership in co-curricular activities (CCA).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) could consider giving high achievers in their CCA an Achievement Level of its own that can be counted towards the final aggregate points - for example, a student who has achieved management and leadership levels in his CCA may be awarded an AL1 - and when it comes to aggregating his final points for secondary school admission consideration, that CCA AL1 may be counted in place of a weaker subject.

There should also be a system in place to recognise the achievements of students who rise above their tough circumstances to do well in school.

During my school days, I knew of classmates who had to look after their younger siblings as well as help out in their parents' shops and yet, were able to manage an above-average academic score.

I applaud the MOE's step to address the PSLE conundrum, but there is still room to develop a more holistic education system in Singapore, and I hope the ministry does not stop examining and tweaking the system to make it relevant in an ever-changing landscape.

Boon Chin Aun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'Make room for non-academic achievements'. Print Edition | Subscribe