PSLE changes

PSLE changes: Govt must navigate sentiment carefully, says Ong Ye Kung

Eunos Primary School pupils receiving their PSLE results on Nov 25, 2015.
Eunos Primary School pupils receiving their PSLE results on Nov 25, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

A flood of comments, including some "not so happy" ones, followed the announcement earlier this month of major changes to the education policy, including replacing the aggregate score used in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) with scoring bands.

Some said this will deepen social inequality as some parents will still try to game the system, while others asked why the changes, to take effect in 2021, will take so long.

Such "furious and strong" responses underline the need for the Government to navigate ground sentiments carefully before taking the next step in formulating public policy, said Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung at a dialogue yesterday.

With the PSLE aggregate score to be replaced by wider scoring bands, a big question is how pupils will be sorted into secondary schools. This will be announced in the next few months, said Mr Ong.

"Have we totally made up our mind (about) what to do? Actually we haven't. We have to see what happens... then make the next moves," he said.

His comments were made in response to Mr Charles Phua, 33, president of the Association for Public Affairs from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who asked how intangibles like social impact can be included in policy considerations.

The dialogue was part of the annual Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme Symposium at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where Mr Ong, the guest of honour, spoke about the intricacies of policymaking. The programme, which began in 2011, aims to train students to lead change in their communities through courses, research projects and attachments to social service organisations.

Five research projects were presented yesterday by NUS students at the event, which drew over 200 people. The students partnered social service organisations to conduct research and make recommendations on issues from information asymmetry in the perceptions of social assistance to the developmental needs of children of former offenders.

Mr Keith Low, 20, a second-year student at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, was surprised to find from his research that over half of the 99 patients admitted to Ren Ci Community Hospital in November 2014 had been prescribed with more than 10 medications.

He said: "Taking too much medication could lead to adverse reactions, and some patients would be less likely to take all their medication regularly. Instead, they can eat food that is rich in fibre or try non-drug therapies that are good for chronic conditions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Govt 'must navigate sentiment carefully''. Print Edition | Subscribe