In a move to dial down the competition over the Primary School Leaving Examination and encourage pupils to go beyond book smarts, the new PSLE grading will no longer be based on how they perform relative to their peers.
Instead, the new scoring system, which will come into effect in 2021, is aimed at encouraging pupils to focus on their own learning, instead of the competition.
Their marks will be converted into grade bands 1 to 8 and their PSLE score will be the sum of their grades in all the subjects, with 4 being the best score.
The Ministry of Education, in its press statement, said: "Students will no longer be as finely differentiated, as there will only be 29 possible PSLE scores, compared with more than 200 T-score aggregates under the current system."
Achievement Level (AL) 1 is pitched close to the A star grade in the current system, for those scoring 90 and above. AL 2, 3 and 4 have a five-point difference, while bands will widen from AL 5 onwards.
CHANGES AT A GLANCE
Each subject will be graded according to Achievement Levels 1 to 8. The PSLE score will be the sum of ALs for English, maths, science and mother tongue. The best score will be 4, and the lowest 32.
How well a pupil does will not be judged in comparison with peers. Pupil's raw performance will be reflected regardless of how his peers have done.
Places will be allocated according to PSLE score first, but a pupil who puts a school higher in his list of choices will get priority over another with the same score who ranks the school lower.
MOE said the new system will still give parents and educators a gauge of a pupil's progress at the end of primary school so that they can be matched to suitable academic programmes in secondary school.
It also said that if there are too few grade levels, there would be more pupils with the same PSLE score, which would lead to more balloting for Secondary 1 posting.
The secondary school streams will remain - pupils with a PSLE score of 4 to 20 will qualify for the Express stream.
Posting will continue to be based on academic merit first. But under the new system, the choice order in which a student lists the secondary schools will now matter more, as a tie-breaker.
Currently, when two students are tied for a place in a school, computerised balloting is used to award the place, regardless of where they listed the school in their order of choices.
Under the new system, the student who lists the school higher in his choice list will have priority.
Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng told the media that the new system of eight ALs afforded enough differentiation to match students to the school that suits them, but it was not so broad that there would have to be too much balloting. It is estimated that fewer than one in 10 places will be subject to balloting.
In response to parents who wished MOE had been bolder in its changes, Mr Ng said Singapore already has a strong and robust education system that has been developed over the last 50 years.
"Some things are best evolved and not revolutionalised," he said.