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Parents weigh in on how the PSLE system pushes kids

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'Stress and competition will never be totally eradicated from our system'

Singapore—STORM Magazine hosted a webchat about the PSLE system on Wednesday, May 19, with two PSLE parents Jason Chiam and Sharon Goh, and education entrepreneur and ex-NCMP from the Workers’ Party, Yee Jenn Jong, as panellists.

The chat can be viewed in full here.


With STORM publisher Kannan Chandran facilitating, the three panellists discussed creativity, competition and the enormous pressure that PSLE takers face, especially in the time of the pandemic.

The PSLE, after all, determines where each student goes for the secondary level and greatly affects their education after that.

The webchat, entitled PSLE Still Pushing Students Hard?, took a look at the exam considered a rite of passage of sorts for every Singaporean.

This year, however, the PSLE underwent a major change. The Ministry of Education announced last month that the new system is part of the MOE’s “efforts to shift away from an over-emphasis on academic results by reducing fine differentiation of students’ examination results at a young age”.

Furthermore, MOE will be releasing the indicative PSLE score ranges for individual secondary schools.

The new scoring system means that each student will be scored by Achievement Levels based on their individual performance in PSLE subjects, regardless of how the other examinees have done.

Mr Chiam, whose younger daughter is sitting for the PSLE, commented on the new system, saying, “The revised PSLE scoring seems to have some elements of luck attached to it, where balloting is concerned.”

During the webchat, he said that he believes that while all schools are good schools, there are some primary schools that are more competitive than others, and therefore are more high-pressured.

In his child’s school, he said, families try to outdo one another, which is not necessarily a negative thing, as more activities end up being offered.

Ms Goh, who says that her 12-year-old son is “part of the guinea pig batch,” said that “regardless how the scoring system changes, stress and competition will never be totally eradicated from our system”.

She also credited the teachers for making the environment at her son’s school, Ngee Ann Primary, work well for him, saying that they have shown individualised concern for each child. 

Ms Goh, however, admitted that her son has been “lacking sleep for the longest time” due to the added activities he has been tackling.

She never talks about stress, however, although she says her son manages his busy schedule well.

She said, “If the parent keeps perpetuating this notion of stress to the child, the child will say, ‘Yeah, I’m very stressed.’ But we can take an approach and we say, ‘You can do it, and if you cannot, as long as you have tried your very best, yeah, there’s nothing else we can say about it.”

“That’s a positive way of looking at it, right?” the host told her.

Ms Goh quipped back, “We have no choice in Singapore.”

As for the former NCMP, Mr Yee said that parents sometimes have to be realistic as to whether their child can not only get into a top school, but if they can end up staying there.

He said, “The trouble is that many people think ‘Oh I just need to get into the top school.’ I think this has been something conditioned into us.

“Sometimes we need to ask is it really good for the children? Will they be able to adjust inside?

“Some people in the top schools end up dropping out because they cannot cope with the IP programme.”


Read also: WP’s Yee Jenn Jong says the new PSLE scoring system “does not change anything”

WP’s Yee Jenn Jong says the new PSLE scoring system “does not change anything”

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