School rankings make way for crowd-sourced school reviews?

Edumatters contest sc

Just when you were about to bid farewell to the school ranking system, which Education Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced in 2012 would no longer be published by the Ministry of Education, out pops commercial websites that attempt to do something similar.

Media reported that a Edumatters.sg had been asking parents, alumni and students to review and rate schools in Singapore, in exchange for a chance to win a staycation.

The website had been offering a 3-day-2-night hotel stay at Sentosa as a lucky draw prize for about two-and-a-half-weeks ago, and has since received about 70 reviews to date on primary and secondary schools and junior colleges, its co-founder John Low told media.

Reviewers can rate the schools out of five stars, and post comments about their experience with the school, including aspects relating to facilities, academic learning, character development, co-curricular activities and communication with parents.

Edumatters does not verify claims in the reviews but the community can flag inappropriate write-ups.

Edumatters has also contacted TOC to clarify that the intention of seeking reviews is not intend to create a substitute ranking system.

“Schools will need a numerical element, in order for comparison, to achieve a ranking of sorts,” said Mr Low. “On EduMatters, while there are attributes gradings and reviews, we have intentionally avoided an aggregation of user inputs to avoid ranking of schools.”

The website also offers news and information on schools, including search functions for home-to-school distances and PSLE scores. It is not known if these scores are historical, as MOE has officially not published these scores since 2013.

“There are many online platforms leveraging on (sic) user generated content. It is useful for users of such online platforms to be discerning of the views shared,” said MOE in response to media queries about Edumatters. “They may also wish to seek views from a wider variety of sources for a more holistic assessment of the experiences and opinions shared.”

The Ministry also runs an online School Information Service system that offers details about a school’s programmes and achievements.

Not all educators were enamoured by the publicity for schools generated by the reviews, with one indicating that it would be better for parents to visit the school to see for themselves.

Resources such as that provided by Edumatters are not uncommon, as parents appear to seek out their own sources following MOE’s move to stop ranking schools by academic scores.

Websites such as theAsianparent.com and even social media-centric sites like mustsharenews.com have managed to cobble together their own sources for such school rankings dating to 2014, supposedly after MOE has already scraped school rankings.