By Tracey Or
PSLE results day is all too familiar for parents in Singapore. The results and yearly sorting exercise of thousands of primary school children send many into states of mild panic, with careful analysis of cut-off points, school research, strategies for application and thoughts about what all these might mean for our children.
We are still that tiny nation that’s continually obsessed with grades, one that houses a booming home tuition industry, and an educational system in overdrive.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education announced what seems a significant shift from the current T-Score aggregate, which sieves children much too finely, to a PSLE Score system in 2021 with broader grade ranges. PSLE Scores will range from 4 to 32 – reducing the number of possible PSLE scores to 29, from more than 200 T-Score aggregates, said the ministry.
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This is a move in the right direction and commendable. However, it is left to be seen how this might pan out in effectively releasing the pressure in the intense, high-stakes educational climate of Singapore.
Over the years, the T-Score has really sealed and defined our concept of education more than we realise. Many seem to have bought the idea that the score alone is a huge indication of success.
It is the impetus for some to improve and excel. For others, it drives them to outdo competition and gain that definitive edge that is worth all returns in time and investment, judging from the size of the tuition industry here.
The T-Scores have caused the hearts of many parents to do curious flutter kicks and flip-flaps. In them lie glimpses of hope, pride, dread, doubt and fear. The scores seem to set forth a pre-determined course. These numbers are the aggregate of much toil, support and hard work. On their own, they have shifted family dynamics, routines and relationships in many households.
They are also the way we, as a society, have conveniently learnt to sort, categorise and typecast the future of our children…. all through a mere number. They have been given the power to cruelly differentiate – to sift the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the crop, the scholars from the farmers.
Next page: What is being done to take the focus away from grades