Ensuring an open, inclusive education system is key

Ensuring an open, inclusive education system is key
Pupils and parents awaiting the PSLE 2012 results at Nanyang Primary School. The PSLE T-score, long a source of stress for students and parents, will eventually be removed and replaced with bands similar to those used for O' and A' levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.

SINGAPORE - Of the announcements related to education, the two changes that were eagerly anticipated by parents were the ones on Primary 1 registration and PSLE.

PM Lee announced that for Primary 1 registration, from next year schools will reserve places for those with no prior connections to the school. The more important PSLE change though will come a few years later where the T-Score system will be replaced with grades like in the O and A-levels.

The issues surrounding these two topics had been hotly debated during the year long Our Singapore Conversation. One of the chief complaints over the Primary 1 registration scheme has been the priority given to different groups- the alumni, those with church and clan connections and parent volunteers.

So parents welcomed the tweak that PM announced, but many felt shortchanged and said that the government could have gone further. Many were of the view that more than 40 places could have been set aside for those without connections.

One parent who has his eyes on neighbouring Henry Park for his daughter pointed that if the change had been instituted this year, then still over 90 places would have gone to the school alumni.

"Why so many places to alumni? While parent volunteers, and those without connections have only 40 places." Like many parents he feels that it would have been fairer if the 40 places were set aside for Phase 2C alone.

The PSLE change was better received with many parents hoping that the new scoring system will be put in place before their children sit for the national examination.

Still, not all parents were happy with the solution that MOE came up with.

Parents were full of questions yesterday on how exactly schools will admit students since they will have a wider pool of applicants to choose from.

MOE said it has yet to work out the details, but some parents are worried that schools will select students based on other attributes such as leadership potential and character. Their worry is that as these qualities are not measurable it will lead to a much more subjective and less transparent admission system.

But perhaps as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Facebook posting on the changes, there is no perfect policy that can satisfy everyone.

Get a longer version of this commentary as well as more reactions and analysis of the National Day Rally in The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Go to Singapolitics for more stories.

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