By Tiffany Gwee
In a recent speech by the Workers’ Party earlier this month, Mr. Yee Jenn Jong brought up the topic of integrated schools and urged MOE to “study the feasibility to pilot” schools that let children go straight to Secondary school instead of having to go through the stress of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
“I am glad that other honourable members like Mr Laurence Lien and Ms Denise Phua have also made similar calls.”
Yee also talked about how while there are parents who will “want a competitive system for their children” to enter “what they believe as the best schools”, there are others like himself who would rather have their children go through primary and secondary education without PSLE. “The brand of schools had not mattered to me,” Yee mentioned, “Such an integrated system is available in many countries, including those that have fared well in education benchmarks. This choice is not available here.”
Abolishing PSLE was one of the issues that was highlighted in the recent ‘Our Singapore Conversation’ and has recently been debated with the rising stress amongst primary school children today. Amid seemingly impossible math questions and truckload of money spent on tuition, this initiative might allow an alleviation of stress on both the students and parents.
What happens after implementation?
With regards to this, Senior Minister Ms. Indranee Rajar questioned the feasibility of this plan to scrape PSLE as a whole – “If you didn’t do it according to grades, how would you do it?”
She analysed different methods and its issues, including how if MOE decides to do it by distance, then it would not be fair to those who scored higher but lived further from their desired school. “The real angst about PSLE is the pressure,” she wrote, “the answer would be to try and make sure that across the board every school is a good school.”
Learning Support Programmes
Ms. Indranee also spoke about the Learning Support Programmes in schools to help those who cannot cope with schoolwork or cannot afford tution. “MOE’s view is that it shouldn’t be the case that because you cannot afford tuition you should not be able to pass your exam, which is why we introduced the Learning Support Programmes.”
In general, she felt that having no PSLE does not mean no more pressure or stress as there are other factors to consider as well even with the implementation of such integrated schools.
Change of mindset
Perhaps it may be time to think about what exactly is causing the often-unnecessary stress accumulated in children as young as 7 – is it really only about the difficulty faced by the students or is it also the overly high expectations that parents set for their own children too?
I often come across parents who only want their kids to attend the “best schools” or “elite schools” or children who have tuition virtually every single day. This, together with extra enrichment and supplementary lessons in schools, is definitely too taxing for a young child. They might eventually not be able to handle the stress and break down from it, causing more undesired trauma to be inflicted upon them.
There is a need to alter the mindsets of society (parents, to be more specific) – for them to be more accepting towards their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone is blessed with a naturally academically inclined mind but over time, they might soon discover their own talents. With their child only at a tender age of 7 to 12, self-discovery and learning is of utmost importance. Not every child will come to realise their talent from such a young age.
Ultimately, education is a journey (that can be long, short, easy, arduous or a mix of everything) to find out more about an individual’s niche areas and interests that best suit them.
Easier said than done
Be it there will be schools with completely no PSLE or not, the type of stress the children face will not lessen unless there is a change of perception coming from people in society. So, if stress is the problem, then creating a more accepting environment for the children might just be able to lessen the pressure.
Indeed, it is easier said than done. It may take some time to get used to the “new” idea of embracing each child’s talent but it is doable only with more effort from the authorities and from the parents.