University entry criteria for poly graduates may be reviewed: Ong Ye Kung

 Any change in entry criteria for poly graduates would be in line with Education Minister Ong Ye Kung's plan not to depend excessively on exam scores for admission purposes.
Any change in entry criteria for poly graduates would be in line with Education Minister Ong Ye Kung's plan not to depend excessively on exam scores for admission purposes.PHOTO: ST FILE

The scores some local universities use to decide the admission of polytechnic graduates may be reviewed.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung indicated the possibility yesterday when he pointed out the role of O-level results in the admission process for such graduates.

For example, O-level results make up 20 per cent of the composite University Admission Score needed to enter the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, and 80 per cent comes from the graduate's grade point average, or GPA, at poly.

"A practice like this will raise the stakes of O-level examinations. This sends the signal that the results of this exam have long-lasting impact on your life. Perhaps, it is time to review it." Mr Ong said at the annual dinner of the Economic Society of Singapore, held at Mandarin Orchard Hotel.

In comparison, those seeking admission through the junior college route are evaluated by their performance in the A-level exams.

Any change in entry criteria for poly graduates would be in line with Mr Ong's plan not to depend excessively on exam scores for admission purposes.

He said exams, like the PSLE, are still needed. It is not perfect but still the fairest system, he added. "But in having such exams, we won't over-rely on exam scores for admission purposes, and won't sharpen the results so much to differentiate one child from another.

 
 
 

"A numerical score may be perceived as objective and transparent, but we may be paying too high a price in terms of stress and killing the joy of learning.

"If we can accept that there is discretion, some elements outside our control in education postings, we can usher in the start of freeing up much needed space for children to learn what matters, and to enjoy the process," he said.

Mr Ong acknowledged that sudden change in the mindset of parents and students is difficult, and said what's needed is for the education system to send a clear signal.

Steps have been taken: polytechnics have moved towards aptitude-based admissions while the PSLE T-score system will be replaced with Achievement Levels from 2021, said Mr Ong.

In response to a question from the audience, he said changing how admissions work is a key factor in shifting parents' attitudes. "If we can relax our curriculum rigour and the scores are not so defined to differentiate one child from another, then the admission system must find some other way to accept the student at the higher level," he said. "This, we have to all accept as parents and society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Uni entry criteria for poly grads may be reviewed'. Print Edition | Subscribe