No change in basic approach to assigning MTL scores

Pupils at Geylang Methodist School (Primary) wait for the release of their PSLE results.
Pupils at Geylang Methodist School (Primary) wait for the release of their PSLE results.PHOTO: ST FILE

We refer to recent letters on the issue of Mother Tongue Language (MTL) exemption.

Pupils who are exempted from MTL will not have an MTL score reflected on their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) result slips.

However, for the purpose of Secondary 1 posting together with other pupils who take four subjects, they need to be assigned an MTL score.

This is the case under both the T-score and new Achievement Level (AL) systems.

There is also no change in the basic approach to assigning MTL scores.

As with the T-score system, the assigned MTL score in the AL system will take reference from MTL scores of peers with similar English, mathematics and science scores.

What is specific to the AL system is that we assign an MTL score between AL6 and 8, which is the score range for foundation-level subjects.

This is because it is difficult to justify why a pupil who did not take any MTL examination in PSLE can receive a score above AL6, especially when 95 per cent of pupils take four subjects in PSLE - including many pupils with special educational needs who are taking foundation MTL.

Notwithstanding, our simulation showed that the proportion of MTL-exempt pupils qualifying for the Express course remains comparable under both scoring systems.

Under the AL system, a pupil will qualify for the Express stream if his four-subject aggregate is 22 or below.

An MTL score of AL6 to 8 does not mean he is out of the Express stream. Further, we are also phasing out streaming by 2024.

As for MTL-exempt pupils who wish to be enrolled in specific schools, over the past two years, MOE has expanded Direct School Admission (DSA) places.

Schools have moved away from recognising general academic abilities during DSA admission, but recognise specific talents, including raw talent, in languages, mathematics, science, the arts or sports. So the doors of DSA have widened.

Ultimately, if we truly believe in moving away from an over-emphasis on academic grades, it is better to have a grading system that is fair and consistent, but at the same time exercises judgment in doing what is best and in recognising the abilities of the child.

Sin Kim Ho

Divisional Director

Curriculum Planning & Development 1

Ministry of Education

Yue Lip Sin

Chief Executive

Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2019, with the headline 'No change in basic approach to assigning MTL scores'. Print Edition | Subscribe