As our fourth generation leaders (4G leaders) bang on about the need to be innovative, I wonder if they have applied the same standards on themselves. While many have criticised the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PLSE) for streaming students too early, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung seems to be adamant that the PSLE should still remain a part of our education system. In defending his decision, the minister has said: “If we scrap it, whatever we replace it with to decide on secondary school postings, I think is likely to be worse.” He has said this in isolation without actually listing any options. If the Ministry for Education (MOE) does not list the other available options, how can Parliament assess if replacements will likely be worse?
He also says that the PSLE happens also to be the most meritocratic, and probably the most fair of all imperfect systems,”. Again, how can this statement be adequately debated and discussed at Parliament if no options are put forth? Also, how can a system which separates students into “good” and “bad” at such a young age be meritocratic? Students develop at different paces. By streaming them at the tender age of 12, the MOE runs the risk of condemning late bloomers before they have the chance thereby robbing them of their opportunity. If a late bloomer has strong family support, he may overcome the early streaming and still flourish. However, if the student does not have family that encourage him or her, he or she may end up never fulfilling his full potential. In my opinion, students should not be streamed until they are at least in their mid teens.
According to reports, Ong had consulted the Chinese Development Assistance Council, a self-help group that has a tutoring programme before coming to the conclusion that the PSLE should not be scrapped. Apparently, the majority of the volunteers there were against ending the PSLE as the exam could motivate students to work hard. They also believed that there were resources to support the children. Surely the minister ought to have consulted more than one group before coming up with a conclusion? This is just one group. To what extent does it represent the whole of Singapore? Why was this group chosen to speak for everyone else? What proportion of students do they actually have contact with?
Looking at their website, it is pretty clear that they are focused on helping the Chinese community. To what extent are they able to speak for the other racial groups in Singapore? Has the minister forgotten that the PSLE is not only taken by Chinese students?
Reports are not clear as to how many groups the minister had consulted but based on this report, it is woefully inadequate and dare I say it, lazy.