New PSLE System favors “All Rounders” over “Specialists”

The new PSLE system clearly favors “all-rounders” over “specialists”.

Scenario 1: Math-Whiz VS All-Rounder

Imagine a Math/Science-whiz with

Math:100 (AL 1)
Science: 98 (AL 1)
English: 84 (AL 3)
Chinese: 84 (AL 3)

Total marks: 366   (Approx. 275 T-score)
Total AL: 8

With a “all-rounder”:

Math: 90 (AL 1)
Science: 90 (AL 1)
English: 90 (AL 1)
Chinese: 90 (AL 1)

Total marks: 360 (Approx. 270 T-score)
Total AL: 4

The Math/Science whiz (total AL 8) will be getting double the score of the “all-rounder” (total AL 4), effectively eliminating his chance of entering the top schools. The irony is that the total marks of the Math/Science Whiz is a considerable 6 marks more than the “all-rounder”.

Under the old system, both are likely to get around the same T-score (approx. 270+), with the Math/Science whiz having a higher T-score.

Scenario 2: English-Educated Kid VS All Rounder

This scenario is even worse.

Imagine an intelligent English-Educated Kid (with parents who can’t speak Chinese). After a lot of hard work with Chinese enrichment, etc, he manages to pass Chinese, with a score of:

Math:100 (AL 1)
Science: 98 (AL 1)
English: 95 (AL 1)
Chinese: 64 (AL 6)

Total marks: 357   (Approx. 268 T-score)
Total AL: 9

Under the old system, this child is probably one that qualifies to enter any school, including RI/HCI, etc. His T-score will probably be on par with the All-Rounder at around 270, or at most slightly lower. Under the new system, his total AL is almost 10. Really a big difference.

In fact, the O-Levels, A-Levels are also favoring the all-rounders. Only at university (and beyond), do the specialists finally get a chance to shine. That’s why it is common to see top students in universities who were not previously from the top JCs or secondary schools.


My followup post on Kiasuparents:

My concern as Math educator is that students extremely talented in Mathematics/Science but slightly weak in languages will be disadvantaged in the new PSLE system.

To quote from my own blog entry titled “New PSLE System favors “All Rounders” over “Specialists””:

Imagine a Math/Science-whiz with

Math:100 (AL 1)
Science: 98 (AL 1)
English: 84 (AL 3)
Chinese: 84 (AL 3)

Total marks: 366 (Approx. 275 T-score)
Total AL: 8

Previously such a student’s score is more than sufficient to enter the top schools like RI/HCI. But under the new system, his score of 8, chances of entering the top schools are slim.

It is not about the prestige, but rather the resources and enrichment programmes that top schools provides that other schools may not. Some examples include Olympiad training, Laboratory sessions, etc.

For these kind of students, the PSLE score of 100 is not enough to capture their ability in Math/Science, they would score 150/100 if there is such a thing. Hence, their calibre is well above the “All-Rounders” who score 90 for each subject and get 4 points.

Unfortunately, the new PSLE system does not bode well for these students…


ChiefKiasu’s (founder of Kiasuparents) comments:

This is a good analysis. The new system does demand excellence in every subject, which in my opinion will increase stress more than it reduces. And for those who say that it is good because there is no need to count decimal points, consider the fact that Secondary schools will still have COPs. So it is now getting 4 points vs getting above 255 t-scores. Which measure would you consider to be more narrow?

My feeling is that the new system will actually intensify the cookie-cutter education culture and create more average joes than truly outstanding individuals.

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One Response to New PSLE System favors “All Rounders” over “Specialists”

  1. LispMobile says:

    It is the correct way to motivate all-rounders from young in PSLE / O / A level / IB before university. Speciality starts from undergradate in Engineering, Medicine, Law, Accoutancy… in the UK system, but the USA has 4-year Liberal undergraduate only specialized in Masters degree (Medicine, etc). France also specialised in Grandes Écoles after 2 years of (post-Baccalaureate undergraduate ) in Classes Préparatoires where undergraduates study Math, Physics, Chemistry, 2nd Language (English or Spanish or German or Russian, etc), IT, and French Philosophy.
    Specialized too early before 18 year-old makes students narrow-minded or ignorant of other important knowledge like history, geography, literature, language… these skills are the foundation for making a future thinker, great engineer, manager, leader, politicIan, business decision maker,…

    Liked by 1 person

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