Singapore’s highly regarded education system is among the best in the world, but it has also created a high-stress and high-pressure environment for children. The obsession with getting good grades, which generally comes from the parents, can take its toll on the kids. In an open letter, concerned citizen Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan says that it is a challenge for parents to change the way they look at scores, because of the high probability between success and good grades.
In 2016, the Ministry of Education implemented changes in the grading system of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which will take effect in 2021. The PSLE T-score has been removed; instead, students are given Achievement Levels (AL) of 1 to 8 in each of their four PSLE subjects. The sum of these ALs would then make up the students’ final scores. Students would also not be graded relative to their peers, as is the case in the existing T-score system.
These changes were put forward with the intention of scaling down the over-emphasis on academic results, to reduce stress on students. However, a change in mindset from the parents especially is needed for the changes to actually make a difference.
Mr. Loh said, “In its earnestness to reduce the stress in our education system, the Government constantly says that grades are not everything. Parents generally welcome this, but we need to get real.”
Mr. Loh pointed out that while there certainly are individuals with poor PSLE grades who are successful and people with good scores who are not so successful, “they are outliers who cannot be used to establish a norm.”
Therefore, “it is a challenge for parents to accept that grades are not important.”