Education changes must not compromise children's future

I read with keen interest the proposal to build a prototype full school that does away with the high-stakes Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) ("Time to transform Singapore education"; last Saturday).

In the article, Mr Laurence Lien proposes that the school be modelled on a child-centric, process-driven approach directed towards holistic learning.

It is an intriguing proposition for those who believe that education should be more than acing the exams. Already, at a young age, late bloomers or the less academically inclined find themselves labelled "weaker" and relegated to less premier secondary schools after the PSLE.

A primary school where pupils are allowed to bypass the PSLE would, thus, allow for a more holistic development of the child.

Children can learn at a less frenzied pace and not have to set aside their other interests and passions, as is the case now, where preparing for the PSLE takes precedence.

Such a school that progresses from the primary straight through to the secondary levels would need to ensure continuity and accountability for the educational outcomes.

It needs to measure up to parental expectations and not be seen as a soft option. Moreover, parents should be assured that their children can qualify for tertiary education in other institutions upon graduating.

What remains to be seen is the buy-in from parents and change in mindset. If such a concept were to take off, would parents take the bold step of putting their child in such an experimental school?

Singaporean parents are largely a pragmatic lot who are averse to taking risks with their children's education.

While doing away with the PSLE is a tantalising prospect, the bottom line is that proposals seeking to revolutionise the education system must convince parents that their children's future would in no way be compromised.

Veering away from an exam-oriented educational approach is much welcomed.

But the misgivings as to whether this may adversely affect a child's future prospects, especially in our paper qualifications-driven society, need to be allayed.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)

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