If your child is taking the PSLE this year, take note of this new directive. According to The Straits Times, MOE told all secondary schools in November 2015 not to take in transfer pupils whose Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores did not meet their cut-off points during the school transfer season.
Before this, schools with vacancies after the Secondary 1 posting exercise could accept students with lower scores who appeal.
Each year, MOE places Primary 6 pupils in secondary schools based on their scores, school choices and the vacancies in a school. The PSLE score of the child who takes up the last spot in a school becomes the school’s cut-off point.
In 2015, children were notified about their schools on Nov 22. Those who wanted to transfer schools on the grounds of special needs had to approach their desired school by Dec 23, while the rest can submit appeal forms before their preferred schools’ closing dates.
When contacted, MOE confirmed the directive. It says students are posted to schools based on “objective and transparent measures of academic merit” and appeals afterwards “should be aligned to these same principles, to be fair to the other students”.
EVERYONE AIMS HIGHER
School leaders told The Straits Times (ST) the change is meant to reduce the flow of students between schools after the posting period. ST understands that popular schools with cut-off points of more than 240 can receive over 100 appeals, mostly from students who do not meet the cut-off scores.
On the other hand, schools with cut-off points of below 200 for the Express stream may lose up to half of their Express students owing to transfers. These movements may leave some schools with just three classes each year spread across three academic streams, while popular schools tend to fill all their spots and can have about 10 classes each year, school officials say.
A secondary school principal, who declined to be named, says: “It’s like a food chain. Students who get into mid-tier schools aspire towards Integrated Programme schools, while those in schools with low cut-offs want to get into better neighbourhood or mid-tier schools.
“The change is a way of getting everyone settled into schools earlier and encouraging students to be satisfied with the schools they are posted to. Students need to know that whichever school they are posted to, it’s a fresh start. Every school seeks to provide a whole range of opportunities for them.”
Some schools, such as St Joseph’s Institution and Crescent Girls’ School, stated the new directive in their appeal documents. But as MOE did not make public the rule, many parents learnt of it via online forums or when they called schools.
Housewife Anne Tan, 50, whose son missed the cut-off score for National Junior College by two points, found out about the new rule after calling the school to ask about the chances of success for his appeal. She says: “MOE should have pre-empted parents so we would have been more selective with our school choices. It’s a waste of time going to the school to submit documents, and it’s unfortunate because our children’s hopes are affected.”
Solution sales manager Mohammad Faiz, 41, whose son appealed to two popular schools, found out about the change via online forums: “Parents in a similar dilemma like mine were calling schools all over the place. But the rule is fair as spaces are allocated based on merit.”
WHAT HAPPENS TO LESS POPULAR SCHOOLS?
According to a report in The New Paper, the ministry’s directive comes in the face of declining enrolment and the impending danger of having to close down or merge schools, says National Institute of Education (NIE) Associate Professor Jason Tan.
Just last month, MOE announced that seven secondary schools do not have any Secondary 1 cohorts. Prof Tan says: “We see market forces at work here, students and parents opting for what they perceive to be better or more popular schools.
“You can see the generally unequal direction of flow. Most of the time, the flow is in the direction of more popular schools. But of course, the sad part is that these forces are often favouring the more established schools.
“If you allow this phenomenon to continue, less popular schools have the perennial problem of restoring morale and trying to prevent closure or merger.”
THERE’S STILL HOPE
Prof Tan suggested for parents to observe their children’s performance in their posted schools. There is the choice of opting for an inter-school transfer along the way if the child performs well at the end of Sec 1, he says. “It is not as though you have only one chance at the beginning of Sec 1, there is still that option open.” – The Straits Times and The New Paper
(Illustration: The New Paper/SPH)
PSLE 2015: Higher cut-off points for top schools