During the Committee Supply Debate in Parliament, the acting Education Minister (schools), Ng Chee Meng, announced that there will be a new scoring system for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) which will be similar to the ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels scoring systems. This will take effect from 2021, affecting this year’s Primary 1 cohort. The main reason why the ministry is replacing the aggregate score with wider scoring bands is to encourage students to go beyond book smarts.
Many parents feel that if their children do not do well for the PSLE, they will not have a bright future. Hence, they send their children for many enrichment and tuition classes in the hopes that their children will improve due to the extra help given and will eventually do well in the PSLE, allowing them to go to the ‘prestigious’ schools in Singapore.
I do agree that changing the scoring system to something like the ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels may be helpful. It may reduce the weight of extra classes and will let those 12 year olds lead less stressful lives, and they will be able to focus more on their holistic development and interests, but is this really the best method? If the ministry changes the system to something similar to the ‘O’ and the ‘A’ levels, more students will be getting the same score, due to the wider scoring bands.
For instance, let us take it that the ministry changed the aggregate score into a simple A, B, and C. A is worthed 1 point, B is worthed 2 points and C is worthed 3 points. The lower you score, the better. A is 75 and above, B is 50 and above, and C is 49 and below. 2 students Bella and Jamie take the PSLE. Bella gets 90 for all four subjects, and Jamie gets 75 for all the subjects. With the aggregate score, their T-score would be really far apart, and it is obvious who is getting accepted into the better school.
However, because of the new rules, Bella gets 4 points and Jamie… also gets 4 points. They wouldn’t know who did better than the other, and if the school they both want to go to has only 1 vacancy left, then there will be a problem. As you can see from the scenario above, replacing the scoring system with something like the ‘O’ and ‘A’ level scoring system’s disadvantage is that those who work hard to achieve better marks than their peers may be robbed of the chance of entering ‘good’ schools. After all, how will the schools tell who is more deserving if many people get the same score?
Right now, we can only speculate whether the new scoring system will be a success. I guess we will just have to wait and see.