Denise Phua again calls for MOE to abolish 'sacred cow' of PSLE

Geylang Methodist School (Primary) pupils waiting for the release of their PSLE results on Nov 22, 2018. Calling for the removal of the PSLE, Ms Denise Phua suggested that a 10-year through-train system be piloted instead. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) has been at the centre of debate in recent years, and views on whether it should remain continue to be split among parents and educators alike.

On Monday (March 4), Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) called once more for the removal of the high-stakes exam, and suggested that a 10-year through-train system be piloted instead.

Speaking during the debate on the education ministry's budget, she suggested that "the Government can carry out the change in a safe manner, by allowing for a cluster of pilot schools with an opt-in option" for those who believe in an alternative system.

Ms Phua, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, told Parliament: "Even with the removal of exams in Primary 1 and 2 and some transitional years, parents and others in society are not blind to the fact that there is still a high-stakes exam at the end of six years of the primary school education."

She was referring to the changes announced last year by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to encourage schools, students and parents to move away from focusing too much on examinations and grades, and to help students discover the joy of learning.

With the removal of assessments and exams for P1 and P2 pupils, teachers will use bite-sized forms of assessments like quizzes to gauge their pupils' learning instead.

Making a case for abolishing the "sacred cow" of PSLE in favour of a through-train system, Ms Phua said: "Removing the PSLE will free up substantive PSLE preparation time which is often hot-housing time to crunch a few selected academic subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Chinese, which do not reflect a holistic education.

"Abolishing the PSLE will provide real space to prepare students to become the curious, agile and more self-directed learner that the future economy needs."

It will also reduce the "self-inflicted pressure and stress in students, families and teachers who have to choose between educating, learning or teaching to the test", she added.

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) also said that admission requirements to schools and institutes of higher learning should "continue to be reviewed and expanded to look beyond the results of high-stakes examinations alone".

She suggested: "Admission to secondary schools can incorporate student portfolios in addition to their PSLE results, while admission to institutes of higher learning should continue to look at the applicants' community contribution, prior work experience, co-curricular involvement or leadership skills, beyond their GCE or other similar high-stakes examination results."

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