PSLE changes will affect kids now in Primary 1

The PSLE T-score will be replaced by wider scoring bands like the O levels and pupils will not be ranked against their peers.

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will see drastic changes in 2021, which will affect children currently studying in Primary 1 this year.

Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng (Schools) said this on Apr 8 when he announced his ministry's plans during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament. Here’s what will change:


No more T-score. Instead, it will be replaced with wider scoring bands like the O and A levels


No more peer ranking PSLE grading will also no longer be based on how pupils do relative to their peers, as it is now, Minister Ng explained. The hope is that this will encourage students to focus on their own learning rather than competing to do better than their peers.

Related story: 6 ways to help your child manage PSLE stress

He said: "Today, there is a deeply ingrained mindset that the PSLE is a very high-stakes exam. Many perceive that a child's PSLE T-score at the age of 12 determines his or her success and pathway in life.

“The main issue to address is that the way we currently score the PSLE is too precise, and differentiates our students more finely than necessary. We should therefore, in time, move away from such fine distinctions, which are not meaningful, especially at that young age."

The Ministry of Education (MOE) will take the next few years to develop and test the new exam and secondary school posting systems. The posting system will still be a fair and transparent system based on academic merit, he added. More details will be revealed in the next two to three months.


Related story: PSLE 2015: Higher cut-off points for top schools


The PSLE review was first announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2013. It is meant to reduce the over-emphasis on academic results and allow students more time and space to develop holistically. 


Minister Ng stressed the need for a paradigm shift towards holistic education.


He admitted that despite efforts to change, there is still a narrow emphasis on academics and paper qualifications. "This is deeply ingrained in our culture," he said, and even manifests in employer mindsets. While MOE can take the lead in moving away from an excessive focus on academics, it will take parents and the community to come aboard, he added.


Will these changes assauge parents’ concerns? This remains to be seen. In a recent report, parents wondered if it would breed a different type of competition – one where kids have to compete based on non-academic achievements.  


Minister Ng also announced changes to the Direct School Admission Scheme in his speech. Click here for the details.

Related story: PSLE changes: How I am going to beat the system


A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.

(Photo: File photo/SPH) 


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