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The switch to using Achievement Levels from T-scores to grade Primary 6 students is meant to, according to the Ministry of Education, reduce the stress of students.
Such a view completely misses the point that as long as we rank classes and schools, parents and their children will fight for positions in the best streams in the top schools, no matter the kind of grading system employed.
Top students are fast-tracked through the Gifted-Education Programme schools. The remainder fight for places in the ‘brand’ schools and those who cannot make it to these schools are shunted to neighbourhood schools.
No one believes the government rhetoric that all schools are the same. Even school officials know the reality as Jurong West Secondary School’s Vice-Principal Pushparani Nadarajah pointed out: “How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their homes? Until they do so, parents are not going to buy it.”
The students are also made to compete for the Express, Normal (Technical) and Normal (Academic) streams. The streams will determine the subjects that the students take which will ‘guide’ them to whether they go on to Junior Colleges, Polytechnics or ITEs after their O-level exams. JC students stand a better chance at qualifying for the university.
In other words, parents see that the prospect of a university education depends very much on how their children perform in their PSLE. How does changing T-scores to Achievement Levels help in any meaningful way?
To overcome this problem of an overly stressful, exam-oriented education system and to produce a future generation of Singaporeans who can think critically and be adept in expressing their thoughts, the SDP has proposed a comprehensive and detailed plan titled Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation (click here to read the full paper):
The key proposals in our programme are:
1. Remove PSLE and delay streaming
The stress of exams inflicts psychological trauma on children. It is not an intelligent approach to assess the abilities of primary-school students on a single examination.
2. Cultivate creative minds
Build confidence in children by helping them develop independent thinking, willingness to make mistakes, and perseverance in the face of failed attempts.
3. Broaden curricula, reduce syllabi
Subjects such as music appreciation, speech and drama, literature, etc. as well as periods for students to collaborate and interact to develop their creativity will be introduced to all schools.
4. Reduce class size
The SDP will reduce class size in our schools to 20 pupils per class from the current 40 to provide students with the necessary individual attention to help them develop academically.
5. Scrap school and class rankings
Comparing examination results and ranking students and classes detracts from the real purpose of education, which is self-improvement and self-actualisation.
6. Encourage reading
Reducing the current syllabus will free up students and allow them time to read for pleasure. A love of reading encourages life-long learning and cultivates a creative mind.