PSLE not the be-all and end-all of success

There has been much discussion on the change of the high-stakes Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) grading system from the current T-score system to one with grade bands.

I agree with Mr Sum Siew Kee that the new grade banding system does not resolve the resource allocation problem ("Banding doesn't resolve resource issue"; April 6).

Mr Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan was also right to say that it just shifts stress and competition elsewhere ("PSLE grade revamp just shifts stress elsewhere"; April 6).

But what should we do to really orientate our education system towards one that values variety and holistic development?

Singaporean parents set their sights on popular top secondary schools, preferably those that offer the Integrated Programme, which allows students to bypass the O-level exams.

But top secondary schools and even top junior colleges are not ends in themselves.

Rather, being enrolled in these institutions confers a competitive edge in getting a place at prestigious universities and courses of choice.

These make up a typical Singaporean success route: Good grades and good schools, leading to a good, high-paying job.

Clearly, doing well in the Primary School Leaving Examination is almost a must, in order for children to be "on the right track", regardless of the grading system.

If we consider education as a river, the problem of overemphasis on academic grades cannot be resolved downstream, or at the primary school level, if the root of the problem lies upstream, with parents' expectations of success.

Our society should, instead, recognise multifarious ways of success and provide more support for those pursuing their own routes to success.

If the river of education leads to different streams that are equally exciting and rewarding, then, there won't be so many "kiasu" parents and students going the extra mile to ensure that they are always on the right and only track.

Qu Aohan (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'PSLE not the be-all and end-all of success'. Print Edition | Subscribe