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New PSLE Banding - A battle for the elite while the average remains... average?

It has been a few weeks since the PSLE results were released and students are now waiting for their school posting results. These are students who had to go through difficult changes in their curriculum due to the pandemic and are the 'guinea pigs' of the new PSLE scoring system.

In their statement, MOE says the new scoring system aims to:

  • Reduce fine differentiation of students’ examination results at a young age

  • Recognize students’ level of achievement regardless of how their peers have performed

  • Allow students and their parents to explore a wider range of secondary school choices

However, is the new PSLE banding designed fairly? Could this potentially be a driver for a more distinct class divide in Singapore?

Class Divide in Singapore

Recent studies have shown that race and religion is no longer the main concern for social divide in Singapore, which is definitely a great achievement.

However, the growing concern now is that we are seeing more class division. The elite only mingles with the elite. The rich with the rich. People in private properties only mix with other people in private properties.

For example, even owning a car in Singapore may be an impossible dream for the average person. Read about this in our article here.

New PSLE Bandings

With the new PSLE scoring system, the gaps between AL1-AL4 are very tight and are 5 marks in between. The AL5 range is 10 marks, AL6 range is 20 marks and AL7 is 25 marks.

A student who is averaging around 75 marks knows that working harder and getting 5-10 marks more will help push their AL up by 1 or 2 grades. The motivation to work harder is there and their parents will also push their children to try and achieve the higher AL grades.

However, for a student who gets 50, for him or her to get the next AL grade, it will be another 15 marks. This becomes more challenging and more often than not, the student will lose motivation to work harder for the subject.

Even for students averaging 65 marks (AL5), it will take another 10 marks to get to the next AL grade.

Is this Fair?

Why is the new scoring system designed to put more pressure and also easier for better students to get to the next AL grades but not for the average ones?

Even though we agree that 'PSLE does not define your future', this is yet to be fully embraced by society in general.

Parents are still showing off their children's good grades and doing their best to make sure that their children get into an elite school. Parents still see this achievement as a prize for them to show off.

Therefore, they are motivated to push their children harder, pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees and do whatever they can to ensure that their children are in the elite group. Most of these parents happen to be in the higher class groups themselves.

At the same time, parents of lower-scoring students feel ashamed and dread it when someone asks them of their children's results. Even more so when the reaction they get affirms their belief that their children are not good enough.

However, for the average scorers and their families with lower income, there is no motivation to push their children for better results. They can't spent the same kind of money on tuition and even if they want to, why bother? It will require so many marks for their child to achieve the next AL score.

The Reality

Some things do not change. As long as there are elite and 'normal' schools, grades to chase and parents who see them as prizes to show off, there will always be comparisons and judgements in society's eyes. Even government officials are talking about the schools they went to in parliament!

There will always be good and average students whatever the scoring system is. However, it should also be designed fairly for all students.

If the intention is not to make every student chase for every single mark, then the ranges in the AL scores should be consistent throughout. The motivation to work harder and achieve the next AL score should be the same for everyone.

Why take away the motivation from the average students but put more pressure on the elite students to do better? In the long term, taking away the desire and motivation to work harder and to do better may be a harmful thing. Putting too much pressure on the elite students is also not good for them.

Elite and average students should have the same motivation to work harder for their futures.

It should not be a case of the elite to battle with the elites and push each other to be better while the average to just remain contented and stay average..

In our opinion, this is worrying and changes should be made. Extending the gap between the social classes will not be beneficial to our society in the long term.

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