Changes to PSLE, but exam will stay: Heng

Despite a recent Straits Times survey that found that one in four Singaporeans think the country can do without the Primary School Leaving Examination, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat says the national exam will stay.

His ministry is working out the details of changes being made - like replacing precise T-scores with letter grades - but the exam will not be abolished.

Speaking at The Straits Times' inaugural Education Forum yesterday at the Singapore Management University, Mr Heng said the exam for 12-year-olds sets a local and international benchmark for what pupils can achieve at that age.

"It's really how we regard (the exam)," he said - whether parents see it as a "do-or-die" high-stakes assessment.

"But if we see it as one of the many checkpoints in our learning journey, then it's much less stressful," he said.

"The different exams really serve this purpose - to see if you have reached this particular milestone, to see if you have mastered a particular competency."

And by using their PSLE grades, Normal stream students who do well in a particular subject can take the same subject at the Express level from Secondary 1.

This initiative to allow students to build on their strengths and interests in certain subjects, started in 12 schools this year.

"(It) allows us to then plan for the next stage of the learning journey," said Mr Heng at the event.

Such efforts are part of the Education Ministry's plans to create an "open learning system" in secondary schools, he added.

This article was published on May 5 in The Straits Times.

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