In this commentary, I chose my artefact as a newspaper article on PSLE stress because of many reasons. 1) I had always harbored a strong interest on what everyone is saying about this hot topic and it seemed very interesting, stating just one problem that Singapore currently face. 2) Other than that, it is a topic that is easy to research, unlike some historic things which are little-mentioned (e.g. the banana note, the merdeka talks,etc) 3) Last but not least,it is a topic that is widely discussed on and more sources can be found
My view on the issue of PSLE
Singaporeans have long since been debating whether to remove PSLE. I personally do not think that PSLE should be removed. On the issue of abolishing PSLE, my concern is if we do not have the PSLE, when it comes to the entrance to secondary schools, how do you decide who goes to which school? I sometimes wish we were a bit like Hogwarts in Harry Potter, where you have the sorting hat that decides which house you go to. But in reality, we do not have a sorting hat and how do we decide who goes to which school? If you did not do it according to grades and scores, how would you do it? Another way would be to do it geographically, where you go into the secondary school nearest to your home, but if you did that, everybody will be fighting to be in the primary school near the secondary school you want to be in.
PSLE assess how much you have learnt over the six years in primary school and then allocates you to a secondary school according to your abilities and/or choice. If you remove it, you might as well say to remove all exams. On abolishing PSLE, let’s presume we do away with it, then how do we decide who goes to which school? If which school you are going is decided on ‘does the Principal know your father or your mother?’ then it’s not a very meritocratic system nor is it acceptable. It is totally, I think, against Singapore’s system. If it is to be decided by the distance and you live very near a very good school, can you imagine the pressure to enter a primary school that is near the secondary school you want to go to. If a sudent had done very badly, but he or she stays very near a good secondary school, he would get in, but a person who did better and stays lets say 10km away would not be able to enter if according to that policy. Imagine how disappointed he or she will feel.
One question, is that fair? No doubt many people would say it is not.There is a whole range of scenarios that will come up if Singapore removes PSLE as the sorting exam. The question is how will Singapore deal with it? The real angst about PSLE is the pressure, and the real reason why you have the pressure is that parents perceive that certain schools will give the advantage of getting into university.
So, the answer would maybe be to try to make sure that across the board, every school is a good school and that society should change their mindset that a child needs to get into a good school in order to get into university ( which acoording to a survey, is a goalfor many paents. One of the goals of the Singapore government would be ( I think)to make sure that no matter which school students go to, you have a chance to get into a university and even if you do not get into a university, the other options are also pathways to success. I hope that under this system, each person can be the best he or she can be, whether or not that person has a university degree.
Why is PSLE bad? 1)Poor education system
However, just because I do not think PSLE should be removed doesn’t mean that I totally think it should remain the same. I think, PSLE should not have such a big effect on what type of school a secondary student goes to. In PSLE, the focus tends to be on the aggregate score, which reports each student’s overall performance in comparison with the entire cohort. It’s called a T-score, or transformed score. It’s derived through a certain computation and basically provides a ranking of the entire cohort.*
The T-score itself doesn’t actually tell the student how well he has performed in each subject or across all the subjects. In affect, it is a queue number. Thus, I think, to put the stress off the students’ shoulder a little. PSLE should form only about 35% of the final grades. This system also has its benefits as the students will not be so focused on the final examination. They might slack for five years and only start to really work when they are in primary 6. I have the same opinion on all the other major exams too.
Also, more weight should be placed on continual assessments, conducted on every semester. Everything is more manageable when it is broken into small parts. This will reduce stress amongst students, and allow individual topics to get the attention deserved. Right now, PSLE encourages parents and students to “spot” possible exam questions, and prepare for those to the exclusion of all else.
If every year’s mark have a large part in the final grade, the students will be more encouraged to work hard and it will be more competitive, resulting in better and smarter young Singaporeans, allowing the country to prosper more. This can happen if we followed the education system that I mentioned other than using other means like, tuition, etc… 2)Encourages poor methods of studying
Also, PSLE studying and actual learning have had a bad divorce.
The methods common to passing PSLE are:
• Ask how, not why. • Don’t experiment or try to be original. Follow what’s worked before, and just copy. • Learn only exam topics. Treat everything else as unimportant. • Memorize model answers, as if they’re cheat codes for a video game.
Teachers who try to stray from the path are hammered down. There’s no room for exploration, discourse, or general knowledge.
It’s not that students are unaware of this. They know these are bad teaching methods. But the importance of PSLE results overshadows their awareness. When an exam threatens to determine most of a child’s future, fear drives the curriculum (this has happened to me before)
On the topic of tuition
Ideally, the aim of the education system is that you should be able to pass your exams without tuition. That said, many parents still think that it is necessary for children to have tuition in order for them to do better; not in all the schools but certainly in a percentage of them. My view is that it should not be the case that because you cannot afford tuition you should not be able to pass your exam, which is why MOE has introduced the Learning Support Programmes in schools, mentioned by Minister of education minister Heng at the last Committee Of Supply Debate. The schools are putting a lot more resources to help students who have difficulty with subjects to help them level up.
People generally think that Singapore has a good education system and that we are not deprived of a good education. But I do get the sense that many people think that the learning field is not level. The running track (describing the field in which where Singaporeans learn) is the same for everybody. It is just that those from the less affluent backgrounds are coming on with the plain sneakers and the one from the better affluent ones are coming with the branded sneakers which give you more comfort and support. The idea is that, if the playing field is not equal because there are some students who come from families with better resources, then for those students who do not come from families with better resources, at least you help them to level up so that they get a chance to do well.
How can Singaporeans adopt a less stressful approach to the PSLE?
I like to make a distinction between status and stature. Status is about our relative importance or merit in comparison to other people, who might or might not be better than yourself; assessment sometimes will tell us about academic status. In contrast, stature is inherent, not comparative. It’s about doing the best that you can, and recognising your intrinsic potential. Assessment should also help us develop our stature, and not our status. I know from my own experience how a drop of status badly affects my confidence. I hope this for every teacher and parent: To think and work hard about raising the stature of your children, and not just try to raise their status.
Conclusion My conclusion for this is that the PSLE should not be scrapped but should be changed to a better and less stressful exam. So, the format should be changed to one more like the O levels. In the O levels, how well you do within a grade does not matter, just as long you get that particular grade.
Once you score an A1, you will not be disadvantaged when compared to a student who has scored A1 with a higher score. I think this should be the model system for the PSLE. Thus , I end my commentary and hope (emphasis) you have enjoyed reading it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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