New PSLE system will unfairly discriminate weaker students and add more stress to parents

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A letter writer to the newspaper TODAY, Robin Chee Ming Feng, is concerned that the changes to the Primary Primary School Leaving Examination system announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) a few days ago, will unfairly disadvantage a good number of students.

MOE introduced 8 scoring bands for Primary 6 students who will take the PSLE exams from the year 2021. The Ministry said that the new bands will be helpful in not pressuring pupils into chasing that final mark in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). It called the new banding a “good balance”.

This is the current score band for PSLE students.
screenshot_20160716_130340In 2021, it will be replaced by this score band.
screenshot_20160716_130548The letter writer explained that parents are concerned that the high minimum score to get band 1 for each subject will not reduce stress levels. He also pointed out that the new score band will mean that students who perform poorly in one subject may not be able to get into the Express stream by acing the other three.

The new system besides making it more necessary for good schools to have balloting for the limited space it has for incoming students, will also affect pupils who are less academically inclined, Mr Chee said. He stressed that the broad Achievement Level bands at the lower level could lead to an unfair outcome for pupils who may do better than their peers and gave two examples:

“For instance, AL5 ranges from 65 to 74 marks, and AL6 ranges from 45 to 64. A pupil may score 64 marks in all four subjects for a total score of 24 (that is, four subjects in AL6), which qualifies him for the Normal (Academic) stream.

Another pupil may score 45 marks in two subjects and 65 in the other two for a total score of 22 (that is, two subjects in AL5 and another two in AL6), which qualifies him for the Express or Normal (Academic) stream, and he can then opt for the Express stream.”

This would mean that a student who scored 256 marks in four subjects would enter the Normal (Academic) stream, while the student who scored 220 marks would qualify for the Express stream. This outcome is unfair to the one who did better, Mr Chee said.

The new system will unfairly discriminate students who may do better than their peers but be streamed to the Normal (Academic) stream instead of the Express stream, and would also create more stress among parents, Mr Chee suggested.