Should PSLE be Scrapped? 四不能除

According to this article by Channel News Asia, there are four “constraints” for why the PSLE cannot be scrapped. I call it the “四不能除“, named after a saying “四不能战” regarding a general Feng Zicai which I recently learnt about after watching the movie “The War Of Loong“.

  1. Compromise education standards;
  2. Hamper students’ preparation for the future economy;
  3. Unduly increase levels of stress and competition; or
  4. Unnecessarily disrupt the system

It is quite logical actually, I encourage readers to read the article, which is written by a student yet to enter university.

Point 1 and 2 are sort of self-explanatory; just think realistically how many kids will study hard if there is no PSLE exam? Even if there is an internal school exam, if its importance is not high, it may not cause students to study.

Point 3 needs some explanation on why scrapping the PSLE may actually increase stress:

Earlier this year, during the Ministry of Education’s Committee of Supply debate, then- Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng remarked that “removing the PSLE and having a through train will only transfer the stress on parents and students elsewhere, such as at the P1 registration”.

He also emphasised that “it will make the O-Level and N-Level exams most stressful – a single exam in the whole career of a child’s life.”

Basically, if PSLE were to be scrapped, the focus and stress will be shifted to P1 registration and O Levels. P1 registration is based on where you stay and your parent’s alumni, in this respect PSLE is actually fairer and more meritocratic as it is based more on the child’s academic ability.

Nonetheless, despite the four reasons not to scrap PSLE, one thing that strikes me is the example of Finland. Despite Finland having no exams until the age of 16, it is well known that Finland’s education system is top in the world. There must be some secret to Finland’s education system, but the question is whether it can work and be applicable to other countries.

General Feng Zicai actually said something that is very wise and applicable to PSLE: “光绪二十九年(1903年)临终前,冯子材为子孙留下遗训:“读书不求官,服官不要钱,违者不孝。” (http://www.qzlz.gov.cn/Item/251.aspx)

Translated: “The main goal for studying is not for becoming an official; Becoming an official is not for gaining money for oneself; Whoever disobeys is unfilial (he said this to his descendants).”


Also read our previous post on PSLE:

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