PSLE paves the way for social mobility

I urge Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), who recently called for the removal of the Primary School Leaving Examination, and others in Parliament to take measured steps before considering any drastic changes to Singapore's education system.

Although the PSLE system is far from perfect, we must recognise its role as a social lever. This checkpoint provides the opportunity for students to show their capabilities, in the hope that they will obtain a place in a secondary school that can fit their needs.

This is crucial for a country that prides itself on meritocracy, especially for those on the bottom rung of society's ladder.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born into families that live close to popular primary schools or have parents who are alumni of such schools, and the PSLE gives the opportunity for those who are less fortunate to obtain a place in a coveted "elite" secondary school.

Due to the current primary school allocation system, removing the PSLE would mean that 10 years of a child's education would depend heavily on whether their parents can afford property near a school that best fits their child. This would result in a dip in social mobility and further entrench class positions.

At least with the PSLE, a child can obtain a place in a better school at the age of 13instead of 16.

Getting into the right school can play a strong and lasting role on one's future opportunities, and denying a child his right to a better-fit school merely leaves him stuck in the situation that he may be born into.

Before we kill this sacred cow, we must find alternative means of retaining social mobility.

Harisan Unais Nasir

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'PSLE paves the way for social mobility'. Print Edition | Subscribe