Primary education reform should go beyond score forma

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The changes to the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) system are unlikely to have much positive impact on how pupils learn and develop, nor reduce parental and student stress (“New grade bands to replace PSLE T-score”; July 14).

The reason for the lack of meaningful reform to the primary education system is the belief that because our pupils excel in standardised tests, Singapore already has one of the best educational systems in the world.

Test results, however, do not take into account the hours of tuition and practice that students undergo, to the exclusion of other activities.

If we consider the hours spent cramming, our pupils would probably end up with some of the lowest productivity rates in the world.

The lack of a strong base of innovative homegrown firms, unlike in Israel or several of the smaller European countries, is another reflection of our grade-focused education system.

Rote learning and endless practice can enable students to ace tests. But these are ineffective in creating original knowledge or producing bright, risk-taking and motivated youth who can create new businesses and generate employment.

Our primary education is in need of reforms beyond the PSLE format. The breadth of knowledge students acquire in primary school is too little to arouse curiosity and interest in learning.

Students spend hours practising model-drawing in mathematics, but what about the origins of civilisation, regions with permafrost or the basics of civics?

Only when the Ministry of Education changes its views on what makes a good education system will Singapore fully maximise its young people’s potential.

 

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