The new, long awaited, PSLE scoring system is now out. Under the new scoring system, T-score is being replaced by Achievement Levels:
AL1: 90 and above
AL8: Below 20
Would this be effective at the target goal of “reducing stress and competition among pupils and parents?”.
Firstly, the good point about this new scoring system is that it is not as fine as the previous T-score system, where every mark matters. Thus, technically there is no difference between a 90 mark and a 100 mark, so there is no need to aim for perfection in a certain sense.
Personally, I think that this scoring system is similar to the O Level System Grading of A1, A2, B3, etc. The change in scoring system per se is unlikely to be able to reduce the stress of students, especially those scoring below 90. Those scoring >90 but not close to 100 may breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to aim for 100. However, for the students scoring below 90, the stress level remains essentially unchanged.
Note that despite the “wider scoring band” label, the band is not that wide after all. In the higher AL’s the difference from one AL to the next is merely 5 marks, which may be just one problem sum in mathematics. In the previous PSLE it is “every mark counts”. In the new PSLE it is “every question counts”, which is not much of a difference.
For Primary students, the stress comes mostly from the kiasu parents, any superficial change in the scoring system will not have much effect.
Overall, nothing much has changed. It is like changing between Celsius to Fahrenheit, there is no difference in the underlying principle of PSLE, which is to serve as a entry criteria for secondary schools.
The main change, as some parents have noted, is that now all subjects are equally important. It is no longer possible to compensate for one weak subject (e.g. Mother Tongue) by scoring extremely well in other subjects. It can be said that the new system favours “all rounders” or “Jack of all trades” over “specialists” in one or two subjects.
The AL6: 45-64 band looks extremely dangerous to fall in (especially those weak in Mother Tongue) as it does not differentiate between a fail grade (45) and a much higher grade (64). Many English-speaking families should be quite worried now…
Another area of concern is that due to the “wider scoring band”, the importance of DSA (Direct School Admission) has increased tremendously. Due to inevitably many students achieving the perfect score of ‘4’, the top schools (like RGS/NYGH/RI/HCI) may have to resort to DSA/GAT tests to select their students. This will probably increase the stress of students, as other than PSLE, they have to worry about DSA/GAT/CCA and building a portfolio of achievements.
Do post your comments, if any, below!