Quite tough to be a primary school kid nowadays, even 97 marks is not enough to be admitted for Higher Chinese classes.
From experience, the main underlying reasons behind this scenario could be:
- Due to intensive tuition starting from preschool, students enter primary 1 already knowing primary 3 syllabus, so everyone is scoring 100/100. So top 25% percentile mark becomes 99/100.
- Lack of manpower (Chinese teachers). It is well-known that Singaporeans are not very interested in general in pursuing the career of Mother Tongue teacher (look at the cut-off points of Chinese studies in universities). So only enough manpower for limited number of Higher Chinese classes.
- Kiasu principals / HODs who want to “quality-control” those taking Higher Chinese to boost the distinction rate of the cohort (a common but unethical tactic to improve the cohort’s performance in national exams is to force those who are not doing well to drop the subject)
- Lastly, it is not known if 97 is the overall mark, or just one of the marks in the continual assessment. It is possible to score 97 in one test, but the average can be much lower.
This is quite a serious issue as Chinese is no longer a minor/unimportant subject, like in the past it was. In fact, under the new PSLE scoring system, Chinese is one of the major game-changing core components, a severe Achilles’ heel for those in English-speaking families. Getting proficient in Chinese from an early age is a must for the new PSLE system, so no doubt many parents are anxious about Higher Chinese.
Parents of some children in a well-known primary school have complained about the selection process for Higher Chinese.
St Hilda’s Primary pupils are routed into Higher Chinese classes in Primary 2 based on continual assessment test results in Primary 1.
What upset the parents was that pupils who scored as high as 97 marks in Chinese last year were told that they had failed to make the cut for Higher Chinese.