A new scoring system will be rolled out this year for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) where Primary 6 students will be required to achieve perfect scores to get into top secondary schools, based on entry scores for 139 secondary schools released by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday (27 Apr).
From this year onwards, each Primary 6 pupils taking PSLE will receive Achievement Levels (AL) of 1 to 8 – instead of the regular grades of A to E – for each of their four subjects. The total score will be the sum of the AL of each of the four subjects, with the best total score being 4.
The indicative scores are the scores of the first and last students who would be given admission into each school under the new scoring system, based on the 2020 cohort’s results and school choice patterns.
The PSLE score of the last student is labelled as the school’s cut-off point.
According to the entry scores released by the MOE on Tuesday, the indicative PSLE score range for Raffles Institution’s Integrated Programme is 4 to 6, meaning the cut-off point for this is 6. However, the indicative score range for Cedar Girls Secondary School is 4 to 8.
As for Gan Eng Seng School, it has an indicative range of 7 to 15 for the express course, 21 to 23 for the normal academic course, and 25 to 26 for the normal technical course.
The complete score ranges for each school can be viewed here.
The MOE stated that just like the previous T-score aggregate system, schools’ score ranges may differ from year-to-year, adding that slight fluctuation in cut-off points can happen and would typically be by 1 AL.
“Under the new system, both students and schools will be less finely differentiated. Even though the schools are less finely differentiated, there is still a certain stability in the school’s indicative PSLE score ranges,” said MOE’s director-general of education, Wong Siew Hoong.
“The system has not been turned topsy-turvy, so parents and students need not feel that they are totally clueless,” he added.
Mr Wong went on to emphasise that students do not have to focus too much in trying to score a perfect 4 in order to get into popular schools as the cut-off point starts at 6.
“This means students will have a wider range of secondary schools to choose from and need not chase after the last mark to get into their school of choice,” he explained.
The MOE also noted that there is a “good spread” of schools with different cut-off points. For example, a pupil with 16 points can apply to any of the 45 express schools with cut-off points in the range of 16 to 20.
During a virtual briefing, the Ministry explained that in case two students get the same score vie for the last spot in a particular school, tie-breakers will be used to determine the spot goes to which student. The first tie-breaker will be based on citizenship, where Singaporeans will be given priority over Singapore permanent residents and international students.
The next will be the student’s list of school choices, where a student who puts the school higher on the list of choices will get priority.
If the tie still cannot be broken, then computerised balloting will be opted for.
Additionally, the MOE also pointed out that for Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, students who pass Higher Chinese Language (HCL) get a posting advantage for admission.
The label for HCL results will be ‘D’ for distinction, ‘M’ for merit, and ‘P’ for pass. The indicative PSLE score ranges of SAP schools include the Higher Chinese grades of the first and last student admitted in the previous year.
For instance, if two students with the same PSLE score are vying for limited places in the same SAP school, the one with better HCL grades will be preferred ahead of the other.
This posting advantage applies before the tie-breakers.
Upon learning about this new scoring system, online users took to the Facebook page of Channel NewsAsia to slam the latest scoring system.
Calling it the “worst system”, they explained that this new system is not fair for the students who scored really well in their PSLE as they might be placed in same school with those who scored not as high due to the range and cut-off point that the school has.
They also pointed out that the old T-score is a much fairer system.
For instance, one user explained: “A scores 91 in subject a and 89 in subject b, ends up AL 3. B scores 90 in both subjects, AL 2. In old system, both will be 180, same score. Now 89 and 90 matters a whole world of difference”.
Many others expressed that this new PSLE scoring system is “more complicated” and stressful for both students and parents to comprehend.
A couple of netizens asserted that it is a “joke” to allow computer balloting to decide a student’s fate in deciding which secondary school they go.
They argued that the new system will make it difficult for students to get into school of their choice as they have to depend on their luck during a tie-breaker that comes down to computer balloting.
One user wrote: “So now we have to tell the children that it’s due to your bad luck that you cannot enter a school or your choice despite putting your best effort in PSLE! Wow what a joke!”