Ask Sandra

What about pupils exempted from mother tongue?

Students of Nan Chiau Primary School having chinese lessons.
Students of Nan Chiau Primary School having chinese lessons. PHOTO: ST FILE

ST Senior Education Correspondent Sandra Davie answers your questions on the recently announced PSLE changes and Primary 1 registration.

PSLE changes

Q I am not clear about what happens to pupils who have been exempted from offering mother tongue as one of the four subjects.

A Under the current system, pupils exempted from mother tongue are assigned a score for the purpose of Secondary 1 posting.

This is done by taking reference from the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) performance of peers with similar English, mathematics and science scores.

The same approach will continue in the new PSLE scoring system.

  • Talk by ST Senior Education Correspondent Sandra Davie on how to pick the right school for your child.

    If you have more questions on Primary 1 registration or the new PSLE scoring system, sign up for the talk by Ms Davie on July 29.

    During the session at the library@orchard, Ms Davie will address some frequently asked questions on choosing the right school, including the "big fish, little pond" effect. Research done locally shows that it impacts students here as well.

    To register for the talk, go to:

    For more information, go to

    Readers can send in questions ahead of the talk, by e-mailing them to or submitting them online at

Q With the new system, won't there be more balloting? Any idea on what percentage of pupils will have to go through balloting?

A Under the current system, computerised balloting is used as a tiebreaker when two or more pupils who have the same score are vying for the last place in a school.

The Education Ministry (MOE) has not said what proportion of pupils undergo balloting, just that it is a small number.

With the wider scoring bands, more pupils will attain the same PSLE score, so it is likely that there will be more balloting.

However, the ministry anticipates that balloting will affect only a small proportion of pupils as it would take place only after all the earlier tiebreakers, such as citizenship status and school choice order, have been used.

Based on the performance and choice patterns of past cohorts, MOE predicts that about nine in 10 students would not have to undergo balloting.

Primary 1 registration

Q What happens if I fail to get a place for my son under Phase 2B as an active community leader?

A You can register your child at the same school or a different one under Phase 2C.

However, you will no longer have priority as a community leader.

Q I have in mind a Christian mission school for my child because I feel it would teach him the correct values.

But I also hear that the school's pupils do not perform that well in the Primary School Leaving Examination. How do I check the academic performance of the pupils in a primary school?

A If PSLE achievements are important to you, ask the school about the number of pupils who made it to the Express and Normal streams. This number points to how well the school's pupils fared in the PSLE.

I would advise you to ask the school's principal about his or her educational philosophy and see whether it squares with your own views on what is important in education.

It may also be useful to check the worksheets prepared by teachers to see whether creativity and independent thinking are encouraged.

If your child is gifted in a particular area, be it academics, the arts or sports, ask about the school's enrichment programmes in these areas.

Get in touch with the parents' support group and ask its members about their experiences.

Q My sister takes care of my daughter as I work full-time. Can I use her home address to register my daughter in the Primary 1 registration exercise?

A Yes, but a statutory declaration is required.

Both you and your husband must be working full-time and your sister must not be employed and must be providing full-time care for your daughter.

Children who apply using a statutory declaration and live within 1km or between 1km and 2km of the school of choice have the same chance of getting a place in the school during balloting as other children of the same citizenship residing within 1km or between 1km and 2km of the school.

Q If my child gets into a mission school, will she have priority for secondary school admission, even if the school offers an Integrated Programme?

A Primary school pupils do not get admission priority for the affiliated secondary school's six-year Integrated Programme track, in which students progress to junior college without taking O-level exams.

But pupils will still get priority when they apply for the affiliated secondary school's normal four- year O-level track.

Q How can I find out if there is a school bus service from the school to my house and how long the ride will be?

A You can ask the school to refer you to the school bus operator, which will be able to advise you on which route the school bus will ply and how long the journey will take.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'What about pupils exempted from mother tongue?'. Print Edition | Subscribe