Going beyond academic scores could pile on the stress

The proposal to assess students on attributes beyond their academic scores may, paradoxically, create more stress than what students currently face ("More time and space for students' interests"; Jan 20).

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is highly stressful for pupils, not so much because they are graded right down to the last decimal point, but rather because of the high stakes involved.

We have to recognise that the PSLE is a streaming exam, and the pupils are competing for a limited number of places in the secondary schools of their choice.

Stress is inevitable, and the only way to alleviate it is to reduce the stakes involved.

Tweaks to the system in recent years, with the supposed aim of reducing stress for the 12-year-olds and their parents, only served to exacerbate it.

Instead of reducing the stakes, the Integrated Programme, Direct School Admissions (DSA) scheme and affiliation priority raised the stakes even higher, as they effectively reduced the number of places available in these schools for those seeking admission based on academic merit.

This would likely translate to an increase in both the cut-off point and stress level.

Students who are not confident of entering the school of their choice based on academic merits may be driven to pursue the DSA route, which can be an additional source of stress.

We have heard of parents paying for additional coaching for DSA activity, but how many of these students are genuinely passionate in the activity and continue to pursue it beyond their DSA obligations?

Many of the academic subjects like languages, the humanities and mathematics continue to form the bedrock of learning, both at institutions of higher learning and throughout life.

We must recognise that most jobs will require such skills.

Apart from the few who are exceptionally talented in arts, music and sports, the majority of students will need to be suitably trained in such subjects.

Students should be placed in a school most conducive to their attaining proficiency in the core academic skills. It is unwise to admit a student to a school for which he is not academically compatible.

As for the pursuit of the arts, music and sports, provide students with the exposure and the opportunity to learn without assessing their performance in such areas for the purpose of admission to the next level.

Arts, music and sports are to be enjoyed and appreciated, not examined.

Charis Mun (Mrs)