Change the way students are assessed and graded, say MPs

In his 16 years as a polytechnic educator, Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) has seen students excel in the polytechnic system after performing poorly in their Primary School Leaving Examination or O-level and N-level examinations.

The main difference, he said, was that they had moved into a system measuring academic achievement in terms of coursework and skills, as opposed to the ability to study for an exam.

He spoke about aptitude-based assessments in a motion on education for the future yesterday, along with Nominated MP K. Thanaletchimi.

"Perhaps the element of coursework or continuous assessment could be introduced as part of one's PSLE grade, such that the eventual PSLE score is a more holistic reflection of a young adult's capabilities and abilities," Mr David said.

This could take exams beyond demonstrating one's ability to "cram-and-deliver", he added.

The recognition of skills should apply to lifelong learning as well, said Ms Thanaletchimi.

For lifelong learning to be successful, the public service and agencies need to revamp their recruitment methods to provide a greater emphasis on aptitude, attitude and skills - with less focus on paper qualifications, she said.

"Some private sectors are more inclined to recruit an applicant based on skill set, and this is indeed commendable," she added.

Meanwhile, NMPs Kok Heng Leun and Kuik Shiao Yin sugges-ted revamping the way students are assessed to better reflect their progress.

Mr Kok suggested relooking assessment models. Instead of measuring how much students have learnt, schools should focus on the quality of their learning and retention.

He also called on the Education Ministry to step up its efforts in ensuring that the humanities are studied deeply and widely to help develop critical thinking in youth.

Similarly, Ms Kuik mooted the idea of having students and parents co-creating report books in charting students' progression.

While this will take more time, it can help the relationship between parent and teacher become more collaborative and empathetic, she said.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Change the way students are assessed and graded, say MPs'. Print Edition | Subscribe