Cow Beh Cow Bu

New PSLE Grading: From Simply “Stress” to “Stress plus Heng Suay”

ELSON: The objective of the newly-announced PSLE grading system is a noble one – to move away from an over-emphasis on paper grades so students can develop other aspects of knowledge.

Let’s start with the good – there is no more Bell Curve. Many people I’ve spoken to miss this point totally.

In the old system, you final score is modified a bit to reflect how well you’ve done compared to others taking the exams. It’s like a ranking exercise.

Not anymore. Now, your final score is really how well you did in the exams.

That final score for each subject will be translated into bands (ALs), and each band will truly show how “good” you are in your paper tests.

That should take the stress off some students, and a lot of parents who are always comparing marks between their kids and others.  Now, it’s you (and many tuition teachers) against the system alone.

And depending on how you score overall, this is where you go:

Now the Not-So-Good part has to do with the new tie-breakers announced.

Singaporeans First – ok lah.

Choice of school to determine who gets in and who doesn’t – maybe good, maybe no good.

Why so? Because if Little Oliver gets 390 points total (which puts her in the top band) and Little Aloysius gets 365 points total (which also puts him in the top band), and both want to get into ACS for example, Little Aloysius will get in ahead of Little Oliver if he put ACS as his top choice and Little Oliver puts ACS as his 2nd choice.

We’re assuming very intense competition for that spot here, but you see where parents will start to complain – my son did better than THAT other fella’s son by 25 points, but THAT other fella’s son got in ahead of him because he can fill up forms more smartly.

(Little Oliver’s daddy is probably a good civil servant or die-hard Toto punter, both of whom come with years of form-filling experience).

The good thing is, both dads will never know exactly how many points their kids scored – they will only know their bands – so such a scenario won’t crop up. But what do Singaporeans do in the face of uncertainty? Pia harder lah!

Computerised balloting – wah lau eh, damn jialat lah.

If you know parents here, you’ll know that they will still pia (fight very hard) to make sure their kid gets the best result he possibly can.

Revamp or no revamp, they will pia.

And now, they will also lie – I can hear Little Aloysius’ dad cow beh-ing now about how lousy ACS is and how he would rather his kid get into Mayflower, then secretly fill in ACS as top choice for Little Aloysius.

And the kid will still face the stresses of studies, but this time, he has to hope and pray that his form-filling tikam tikam skills are good, and when it comes to the crunch, that the computer is merciful (to him, but cruel to the next kid).

Stress plus heng suay.

The MOE says that it expects only about 10 percent of students to need balloting. That means for the other 90 percent, it’s just stress lah.

Now for the big kick up the ass – want to get top band? No more, 85 marks. It’s now 90 marks.

In other words, more tuition to ensure that kids get the best possible mark they can get (because you die boy if after all this tuition you only got 89).

And 90 marks for EVERY subject so that your overall points is 4, so you can get into in the best damn school (daddy will fill up the forms properly, you just study and study some more).

How will this fit the MOE’s goal of moving away from an over-emphasis on paper grades so students can develop other aspects of knowledge?

It won’t – it’ll just make competition worse when it comes into play in 2021.

So how? If you don’t like the emphasis on the paper chase, tell your kids not to have kids next time lah. Otherwise, they’re going to face the same stress, just repackaged to look different.


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