More continuing studies after secondary school: MOE

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 6, 2013

MORE students are going on to post-secondary education, and they are doing better in national examinations compared with a decade ago.

The data was revealed yesterday by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in its annual report on how students have fared over the past decade.

But in a departure from previous years, the ministry has renamed this year's report.

In the past, the report was called Performance By Ethnic Group In National Examinations.

This year, it is titled 10-Year Trend Of Educational Performance in what some observers see as a move to tone down the focus on how students from each ethnic group fared. But information on how each group fared at different education levels is still made available in the report.

There has been discussion over whether such information should be made public. Last year, Nominated MP (NMP) Eugene Tan raised his concerns in Parliament that this could lead to racial stereotyping.

The MOE had said then that such data was useful in helping community leaders and self-help groups assess their programmes.

According to yesterday's report, more have made it beyond secondary school in the last decade. Of the cohort that entered Primary 1 in 2002, 96 per cent were admitted to post-secondary institutions in 2012, compared with 88 per cent for the 1993 cohort.

Overall, pass rates at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) have seen a slight rise, with Indian pupils making the most improvement.

Malay students, meanwhile, made the biggest improvements at the O-level and A-level exams.

When asked about the renaming of this year's report, an MOE spokesman it is to "bring upfront the performance of students" in general "in terms of progress to post-secondary education".

"Our aim is for every student to acquire a broad and deep foundation in the 10 years of basic education, and to go on to post-secondary education," said the spokesman.

When contacted, Mr Tan said the ministry "could be trying to shift the focus away from the racial aspect".

"While the rest of the data on different ethnic groups' performance is still available in the report, I'd like to look at the title change as a glass half full," he said.

MP Lim Biow Chuan said: "If the data is not released to the public, some may argue that there is a lack of transparency."

MP Zaqy Mohamad pointed out that Malay-Muslim self-help group Mendaki organises many programmes for students, and the annual report allows the group to track how its students have performed.

But presenting such data along racial lines may get "less and less relevant in future", he added, as the numbers of mixed marriages and new citizens increase.

The Singapore Indian Development Association's chief executive, Mr Raja Segar, said such data allows his group to know "where the Indian students need that boost or intervention".

"Anecdotal evidence sometimes tends to be skewed and this report gives the facts," he added.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 6, 2013

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