SINGAPORE - Parents choosing a secondary school for their children should look beyond a school's cut-off point, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook posting on Sunday.
Instead, they should consider a school's learning environment and one that best matches their child's character, he said.
His remarks came two days after the release of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. A record 66.7 per cent of the 2013 cohort have made it to the Express stream in secondary school, up from 63.1 per cent last year.
Mr Heng said parents sometimes choose a school based on the previous year's cut-off point, "in the belief that the higher the COP, the more competitive the school, and hence, the better it is". He reminded parents that academic grade "is only one aspect" to measure a child's capability.
Some children may be late developers and being in the right environment will help them thrive. "Think of how best you can help your child develop confidence, and enjoy the space to discover his talents and passions," he said.
His comments came after the ministry ended its practice of printing on candidates' results slips the highest and lowest scores in the PSLE. Last year, it stopped naming the top scorer.
A statement put out by the Ministry of Education last Friday on the release of the PSLE results included, for the first time, a paragraph that advised parents when selecting a secondary school for their children to consider its proximity to home, its learning environment and its aggregate ranges.
Mr Baey Yam Keng, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said the ministry is signalling to parents to "focus on other aspects of education, as grades are just one indicator". "It is also not advisable to put your child in a school where they can only scrape through," he said.
Madam Jasmine Sng, 47, said distance is her main consideration when choosing a secondary school for her son, Jerel. "If children are placed in a competitive environment and they are unable to catch up with their peers, it may be demoralising for them," said the mother of one in Mandarin.
Ms Elain Sim, a 42-year-old mother of two, said it is hard to look beyond cut-off points "because that is how schools admit students". "The system is based on the aggregate scores and cut-off points," said the assistant director who works in Singapore Management University.
Pupils have until Nov 28 to submit their school choices and they will be notified of their postings on Dec 20.
Towards the end of his blog post, Mr Heng gave encouragement to those who did not make it to secondary schools. Pointing to specialised schools that they can choose, such as Assumption Pathway School and Northlight School, he said: "You will also go on to make friends, discover things, make a difference to people around you. I want you to believe in yourself and keep doing your best - show the world what you've got!"
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