MP Indranee Rajah: The upcoming PSLE scoring system will produce similar outcomes for pupils exempted from taking mother tongue languages

Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said on Monday (2 September) that students who are exempted from taking mother tongue languages (MTLs) in the new Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system will generate similar outcomes as the current T-score system when it comes to secondary school choices and admission.

Mentioning this in Parliament, the Minister said that those who score 22 or below will be entitled for the Express course and this outcome works for either of the scoring systems.

Ms Indranee said this as a response to questions raised by MPs like Denise Phua, Murali Pillai and Rahayu Mahzam on the new PSLE scoring system for students exempted from MTL.

She explained that stimulations based on the latest PSLE results showed that students who require special education needs that are exempted from MTL would still make the cut for the Express course under both systems.

Just recently, someone from the public started an online petition requesting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung to postpone and reconsider the new scoring system, which officially begin in 2021.

The petition highlighted that the new system of assigning a grade from the range of Achievement Level (AL) 6 to AL8 will make MTL-exempted students to be part of the lowest scoring students in the subject. As such, this will result to a knock-on effect in their education when they move to secondary school.

Retaliating this, Ms Indranee explained that the scoring system was only made after thinking of the majority of pupils who are offered an official MTL either at the Standard or Foundation level.

She added that close to 90% of those returning Singaporean students take up an official MTL while 70% of students with special education needs also study MTL.

“As the score range for those taking Foundation MTL is AL6 to AL8, it would be difficult to justify to those offering it why another student who did not sit for the exam could be assigned a higher score,” the Minister said.

Different system for pupils with special needs

During her speech in the Parliament, Ms Indranee also answered questions on putting hold the implementation of the new scoring system for current students as well as considering an alternative system for students with special education needs.

As a reply, the Minister said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) intends to change the national exam scoring system. This means that it would “not be feasible” for a small group of pupils to still be scored using the current T-score system or use a combined score of three subject scores because it would not be the same with others.

As a reply to Ms Phua’s follow-up question of the size of this group of students, Ms Indranee elaborated that around 4.5% of students a year are exempted from taking MTL and 3% of them are those with special educational needs.

She added that MOE understands that these special needs students are required to put in “tremendous effort” in order to cope with their students. As such, MOE has added resources in order to help these students as well as those in special education schools.

“Ultimately in grading, scores have to reflect standards instead of effort or circumstances. They are relevant factors, but we should exercise (that) judgement during admission mechanisms like the Direct School Admission (DSA), instead of compromising the consistency and integrity of the assessment and grading system,” Ms Indranee noted.