Grades show you where you stand.

Ever since MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Denise Phua proposed (in the January sitting of the Parliament) that the government start a "pilot cluster of schools" offering 10 years of through-train education, in the process scrapping the PSLE, much debate has risen as to whether this is for the better as far as future generations of school children are concerned. Ms Alpana who posts regularly in online forums feels that while such a suggestion has its merits, the authorities should exercise care in not simply discarding grading systems altogether. She explains below in her own words (slightly edited):

"A straight 10 or 12 year track is not a bad idea. After all the main purpose of PSLE is to enable placement in a suitable secondary school. If one school takes you from P1 to O or A levels, it is perfectly fine.

But that should not be equated with doing away of streaming or grades. Grades show you where you stand. How much importance to give to it and whether to stress a child over it or not it is totally up to the parents. We cannot place the entire onus on the system. Entry into the Express stream typically requires a minimum PSLE T-score of 188. Absolutely nothing wrong with parents and their children striving to get there; we all have our aspirations. But do not blame the system for our aspirations. There are enough opportunities for every child and different learning styles in the system. Streaming actually helps to ensure that the needs of different groups are catered to.

Even when we talk about the US education system, which is generally less pressurizing till higher secondary levels, bear in mind many Asian Americans send their children to external classes which test and grade them on a regular basis. Can we insist upon who is right and who is wrong? Second generation Asian Americans are one of the most successful groups, academically as well as financially. But at the same time the Caucasians have proved themselves to have an edge when it comes to research & analysis. Even then the Chinese Americans are catching up very fast in that area.

Everyone has their own strengths. Singapore's system of streaming and grading suits our culture of academic rigour. If schools were to eliminate grading completely, those parents who can afford private tuition will still send their kids to such classes to experience a more rigorous regime. In the end these children and a handful of self-motivated others will start their upper secondary education with an advantage over others. At least everyone going to school in Singapore today has the benefit of being exposed to academic discipline. Trying to ape the West blindly is not going to benefit us at all. Will we be able withstand the keen competition both globally and from our Asian counterparts, if we modify our system drastically? In all honesty, we have a very well tried & tested education system, which is sufficiently rigorous to produce observable results yet not too extreme to the point where kids are driven to suicide as in some East Asian countries. Rather than change what works, we should try to change how we use the system."


The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 28 January 2014


Unfair Comparison of 'O' Level Results

Think About Singapore's Education System

Enrichment classes for children: Waste of money?