Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dumb Idea

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is the culmination of a child's first 6 years of formal education and certification of suitability to move up the higher ranks of scholastic pursuit. Not everyone is inclined to a life of books, some just want to go ahead and do it, like Nike suggests. And come home with a genuine Olympic medal, not a store bought one from foreign sources.

Yet the ability to pass a school examination is a valuable quality. It shows a student has acquired a certain level of competence in some subject and is able to express his thought and ideas in a manner others can understand. If a sportsman, or auto mechanic, has intent to pass down his area of expertise to the next generation, he has to document his skills with educational tools for enquiring minds. It is believed that the mind of a student, even if he is dull, receives good exercise when he prepares for an examination. A student’s success in an examination, therefore, helps employers and others to assess his mental or general ability.

It is strange, therefore, to read that some Members of Parliament (MP) are advocating that the PSLE be scrapped. The teachers who are supposed to prepare their young wards for the big test, are going to be relieved of a bundle of work.  Makes one wonder what the 8 percent salary increment was meant for. Teach even less, to learn more? Work less, earn even more, was that the original lesson plan in mind?

Then again, most of the MPs skipped their own big test of facing the electorate mano-a-mano - instead of getting an individual  passing grade from the ballot box, they simply rode on the coat-tails of someone else more senior (who probably scooched into office the same way). Hri Kumar said there must be an alternative way of deciding who goes to which secondary school, other than by way of a common exam. Let's hope he's not thinking of a GRC system for the kids, or an invite to tea at the Istana, the way guys are invited to participate in the National Conversation.

Folks, there's nothing wrong with exams. One needs to pass a test to drive a car, operate a crane, fly an aeroplane, or pilot an ocean going vessel. The real problem is the preparation, specifically the reliance on private tuition, which would not have been necessary in the first place if teachers are earning their pay the correct way. If Hri Kumar is serious about slaying a sacred cow, how about nationalising private tuition?


  1. Nothing wrong with exams, except, it shouldn't have to start so early. You don't tests at this age to drive car, operate crane or plane. The focus should really be allowing students to find their own learning methods and joy of learning. Besides, if you're going to remove banding/ranking, and if ALL schools are GOOD schools, then in theory, why do you need PSLE scores (high or low) for differentiation anyway? In the past, the scores are needed for sieving into top/bottom schools. Do you need that now?

    Methinks we should go all the way and remove it. Students have time to be tested later on in life which is more age appropriate for handling stress.

    1. Our 12-year-olds too young to cope with the "stress" of an exam? Take a look at this 12-year-old and be ashamed. No wonder our youngsters are unable to see through the sham of Temasek Holdings, CPF ponzi scheme, and HDB "subsidies".


    2. This has nothing to do with test, but content. Does our (primary/sec) national education teach them subjects to question our govt's way of governance? When you have a MSM and 1-party that keep propaganding their school of best governance, who in schools are teaching them other modes of governance can be equally better, if not workable?

      Just becoz you set up a LKYPPS to make it look like Greek School of Plato/Aristotle, doesn't mean you are one. What more, a laughably 40yrs of track record with major repression! Who are we kidding?

    3. This video proved nothing. SG consistently topped Maths scores in the world. Put those 10% kids together and ask them if they can see through the complex sham of SWF and CPF, and you'll still get empty stares. Canadian girl is just regurgitating with parent's help, IMO.

  2. Totally agree with you. The PSLE will give parents an idea of how to help the child for the future. If he is not academically capable, it would be best to focus on an area which he is good with.

    Of course you can do it after he turns 16 but then why do you want to waste 4 years of his life doing something that he does not like and is not good at?

    Every athlete, dancer, singer etc will practise for the purpose to compete with other to gauge their standard at least once a year or more frequently. Hence 6 years to train a child to take the PSLE is not too short. Delaying it to 10 years to know the academic result of a child does more harm than good especially when our sons need to give away another 2 years to NS.

    1. Hey I totally agree with you and Tattler.

  3. I asked some parents what they thought about the idea of doing away with banding, and they said it would make things more difficult. They would have to find out for themselves which schools are actually doing a good job at teaching their kids. The MOE have their own assessment of course, but now they get to keep it away from the watchful eyes of the parents.

  4. If you do away with exams, then getting into good schools and university (with the desired courses) may be dependent on your connections and family backgrounds. Are singaporeans willing to stomach that? Look at the admission into medicine in NUS? It is no longer dependent on how well you do in A'levels (of course you attain a minimum grade to apply) but how you supposed perform in a 2-weeks OJT and an interview which is all highly subjective. I can still remember many top students getting rejected but students with "mediocre" results getting in.

    1. Then it comes down to MOE's execution of how they truly define "good" school and walk the talk. Will they be rotating good teachers/principals all over the island? Will MP/Ministers reveal which schools their kids go to or theirs are consistently in same one? How prepared are we as a nation to eradicate the old norms and behavior?
      Why wouldn't a Finnish model work in SG? I strongly believe tuition industry should be halved eradicated. They can be co-opted by schools who need to pull in additional resources to level up students in some weak areas where needed, but not outside of class on parents' resources/kiasuism.

  5. Why is everyone so afraid of change? Why not take a look at successful and less stressful systems in northern European countries?

    1. I do not find the present system stressful at all. It is actually a piece of cake to do very well all the way from PSLE,'A' level and up to university. You do not need to be very smart to be able to do that.The real stressful system are what you find in the university entrance exams in China. If you look at the math questions in the test, you will find that the syllabus is very simple and narrow but the questions are often very difficult to stump even the best of the local students.

  6. The problem is not with PSLE but with the overwhelming syllabus expected of a 12 yr old. Class size is not helping as an average 12 yr old matures differently. Concepts/questions may be easy for some but looks like Greek to others. Why are there more boys in NA and NT classes? Is it true that boys level up with girls academically during secondary school? If one were to look at what we are teaching at P6 now, you would think we should be producing rocket scientists in 20 yrs time. Instead we have produced muggers who are most likely just exam smart, not thinkers. The curiculum needs to be reassessed.

  7. Children are not things to be moulded. They are persons to be unfolded. How can parents know if their child will be doctor, plumber, businessman or academic by age 12, or even age 16?!

  8. Many different views out there..all I know is that today, we are on an extreme unhealthy pole.




  9. Either do away with PSLE or reduce its contents..primary school should be about moulding the character and having fun with studies..PSLE shouldnt be something that decides a child's future thru streaming/banding. Its very de moralizing for children that age to be streamed as smart or not..my 2 cents worth...

  10. A long time ago in 1962.
    A professor of business called Alfred Chandler postulated the thesis "Structure Follows Strategy".
    Figure out what you want to do first.
    Then work out the operational details of how to do it.
    Or what Ah Beng will simply say 'Don't put the cart before the horse."

    The unasked question in Singapore education.
    What do we want Singapore education to accomplish for Singaporeans.
    After answering this question.
    Then the discussion about banding, exams, PSLE etc will make more sense.

    You don't need to pay $1 million dollars to a Committee of Inquiry for good advice right?


  11. LOL..the proverbial debate how to build schools for 21st century. And how many people actually saw this whole mobile phone, internet superhighway would take off 20years ago? just because PM Lee says robots are the future, you want to punt all your childrens' future down? What if I tell you in estonia (where skype was invented), schools are teaching grade 1 how to do programming? And HK is mulling about it? Are we going to rush out and hire all the India's mediocre programmers (plenty of fakes out there too) and come tuition your kids too? We worry so much our TFR and keep importing, who knows 20yrs from now, stem cells and cryogenics will let people duplicate future generations to come. Stop crystal ball gazing. Just look 5-10 years ahead and hope that we can continuously adapt as new information and technology changes lah. The more rigid you are, the worse you will make it for our children.

    1. Agree.
      Long term forecasting & planning makes you very rigid.
      And blinds you to changes taking place right in front of you.

      Just ask our 89 year old sacred cow.

  12. The introduction of the IP programme actually make the system worse than before because it elevate the status of PSLE into an all important exam to decide if a child can choose the IP route or not. worst still is MOE recent effort to extend to even more schools. I am of the opinion that PSLE can stay but the importance should be de-emphaized so that children will enjoy their primary school days without spending an inordinate amount of time to prepare for PSLE.In the very old days, PSLE was just "PASS or FAIL".A lot of talented students do not go to RI/RGS but the schools nearest to their homes to save on transport cost and time.

  13. PSLE is not the problem. It is the exam system and what they do with the results that needs to be changed.

    PSLE should be an assessment of if the kid has attained the necessary academic knowledge for a 12 year old. It should not be an island-wide filtering system to rank every single 12-year old from the "smartest" to the "weakest". If MOE just keeps PSLE to the format that "this is what you need to know when you are 12 years old", then I'm very sure all these stress and stuff issues will all be much reduced.

    1. Agree. PSLE is not the problem. It is what MOE associate and do with the T-score that is the problem.

  14. "Thus, Singaporeans, who in the best of times, are the most stupid people on earth,
    bred and made that way for easier control and management, discouraged from
    criticising the govt and therefore all critical thinking, believed in certain fallacies:

    (I came, I saw, I solved it_ Stupidest govt of all time)

    (I came, I saw, I solved it_ ICONOCLASSING Pt 2)

    (I came, I saw, I solved it_ Pt 5 SOME RECENT LIES BY PAP GOVT LED BY LIAR KY OF COURSE)

    “there is no such thing as an English gentleman anymore”

    (Jaundiced Lenses A Letter to Tony Blair)

    (Disinformation, Propaganda, Paid Trolls, and Control of Information)

    Joshua Chiang

  15. See, MIW succeeded in diverting attention away from the real issues by a simply talking about a non-sacred cow which get the silliporeans all worked up because of its immediate impact. Now the debate shifts away from FT, high cost of living, healthcare, GDP bonus review for top civil servants, free speech and political choices, income inequality .... its getting boring going over the same issues, even for tatler.

  16. Dumb ideas for dumb students/parents/teachers who take dumb-down education from our government.


  17. competence?

    You mean regurgitate facts?

    Exams of such nature tests memory only. Competence is not assessed.

    I failed my PSLE
    I failed my O level
    I failed my A level

    But I own 3 properties ( fully paid thanks )
    and I enjoy 16 day vacations to other continents.

    Does it matter that I need to have a MBA??