'Why make PSLE 2019 such a nightmare': Singapore mum asks Education Minister

It's that time of the year again. Hapless 12-year-olds are sitting for the national exams that'll either make or break the next few years of their academic progress — the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

It should go without saying that PSLE is a stressful experience for both students and parents alike.

This year, one Singaporean mother was so upset at the difficulty of this year's PSLE math paper that she took to Facebook to write an open letter to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

In a recent Facebook post, Serene Eng-Yeo called a math paper "harrowing" and complained that it left her child "defeated, crushed and utterly demoralised" when he sat for it on Friday (Sept 27). 

According to Eng-Yeo, the exam was markedly more difficult than the preliminary exam that her son's school had given him.

Eng-Yeo said that her son had walked out from his preliminary exam feeling "empowered and encouraged that he could do the paper".

In contrast, her son was "dumbfounded" after the actual PSLE math paper and was not able to do most of the questions in Paper 2.

The Paper 2 examination consists of five short answer questions and 12 long answer questions which account for a total of 55 marks.

The questions in Paper 2 are usually longer and more complex than those in Paper 1, which is made up of multiple-choice and short answer questions worth 45 marks.

Eng-Yeo also questioned Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) on the need to set such a tough paper and pointed out the consequences that it would have on students' mental health.

She wrote: "You only need to set and mark the papers. But it is the scarring that you have inflicted on your future generation that the parents have to see through and undo.

"Make it challenging. Make it doable, I agree. But what I don't understand is the cruel decision to make it so unreasonably tough that children came out crying, deflated, demoralised and crushed."

Eng-Yeo's post struck a chord with many parents, who agreed that the exam this year was too difficult.

Photos: Screengrab/Facebook

On the other hand, others argued that there was no issue with having a difficult paper since all students would be graded fairly.

Photo: Screengrab/Facebook

Ong did not respond to Eng-Yeo's post at the time of writing.

Following complaints from other parents about the math paper, a SEAB spokesperson told AsiaOne that questions in the national exams are based on topics within the syllabus.

According to the spokesperson, the exams "assess students' ability to understand and apply concepts".

"For each national examination, there will also be a balance of basic, average and challenging questions so that the overall standard of the paper is maintained from year to year to cater to a wide range of student abilities.

"We also want to emphasise that PSLE is just one of the many checkpoints in a child's education journey. We encourage all students to continue putting in their best effort and focus on their remaining papers, and we urge parents to continue giving their children their fullest support."

The PSLE written examinations started on Sept 26 and will end today, Oct 2.