New PSLE scoring system not silver bullet, but part of
education reform: Ong Ye Kung 1

SINGAPORE: The new scoring system for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is not a silver bullet to reduce the overemphasis on academic grades, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (Jul 28). 

The system, which will roll out from 2021, is instead part of a “significant reform” which the education system is undergoing, he said. 

READ: Secondary school posting from 2024: MOE details range of PSLE scores needed for each scoring band

READ: Next year’s Primary 5 students to get exam results based on new PSLE scoring system

“I think this is a period where the education system is undergoing significant reform, not by one single measure but a whole package of measures that we have systemically implemented over time,” said Mr Ong. 

“With this system, we will better prepare our children for the future,” he added. 

Mr Ong also noted that the move complemented other efforts such as the phasing out of secondary school streaming by 2024, as well as changes to the Direct School Admission Exercise (DSA). 

STUDENTS TO FOCUS ON OWN ACHIEVEMENTS

Mr Ong said that the new PSLE scoring system would not affect students’ chances of getting into their preferred stream, but will allow students to focus on themselves. 

“Given time, students will be able to focus on their own achievements,” said Mr Ong who was speaking on the sidelines of a community event, Gambas Neighbourhood Renewal Programme Roadshow 2019.

“‘What I want to achieve, what’s my target’ and try to achieve it, as opposed to comparing with each other to get ahead in order to score a high T-score.” 

He said based on the education ministry’s estimates, the percentage of students going to the Express stream, which is currently about two-thirds of the cohort, will not change very much.

About 20 per cent of students are also expected to continue taking Higher Mother Tongue, with 99 per cent of students to progress to secondary school, said Mr Ong. 

“Be mindful that under this new scoring system, the subjects don’t change, the curriculum doesn’t change and the way we teach doesn’t change – it may improve for the better – assessment also doesn’t change,” said Mr Ong.  

“The only thing that changes is the scoring system. So the technical educators in MOE (Ministry of Education) are able to map from one scoring system to another scoring system.”

He likened the current scoring system, which uses the T-score, to a national running competition where the outcome places more importance on the placement, instead of a runner’s timing.

Mr Ong said the new scoring system would be like the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), a standard physical fitness test used by the Singapore Armed Forces, where individual scores are more important.

MORE TRANSPARENT THAN T-SCORE

According to Mr Ong, some parents felt that the new scoring system was complicated, but he said it was a lot more transparent than the current T-score system.

He also said that introducing updates to the PSLE would help parents internalise the new system.

“I don’t think it’ll be that complicated because it’s very similar to your O-, N-, A-Levels as well,” Mr Ong said.

“I’m quite confident that by 2021, there won’t be confusion. People will understand how this new scoring system will add up and how this aggregate is calculated.”

He added there was a right “exchange rate” in mapping the grades of foundation subjects to standard subjects, which the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) has worked out.

Under the new PSLE scoring system, students will be graded based on an Achievement Level (AL) score ranging from 1 to 8, with 1 being the best score and 8 the lowest.

The AL system will result in 29 possible scores, as opposed to the current T-score system, which has about 200 variations, according to MOE.

This aims to reduce fine differentiation at a young age and recognise the students’ level of achievement regardless of how their peers have done, it added.