SINGAPORE: The new Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system for students exempted from taking mother tongue languages (MTLs) will produce similar outcomes to the current T-score system in terms of secondary school choice and admission, said Ms Indranee Rajah on Monday (Sep 2).
Speaking in Parliament, the Second Minister for Education said that any student that scores 22 or below will qualify for the Express course and this outcome applies to either scoring system.
Simulations based on the most recent PSLE results showed students with special educational needs that are exempted from MTL, for instance, would qualify for the Express course under both systems, she said.
Ms Indranee was responding to questions on the new PSLE scoring system for MTL-exempt students by MPs like Ms Denise Phua, Mr Murali Pillai and Ms Rahayu Mahzam.
Ms Indranee's speech also came after a member of the public started an online petition asking Education Minister Ong Ye Kung to postpone and reconsider the new scoring system, which kicks in from 2021.
The petitioners said that the new system of allocating a grade from the range of Achievement Level (AL) 6 to AL8 placed the MTL-exempt students among the lowest scoring students in the subject and would have a knock-on effect on their secondary school education.
However, Ms Indranee said the scoring system was decided on after considering the vast majority of students that offer an official MTL either at the Standard or Foundation level.
About 90 per cent of returning Singaporean students study an official MTL while 70 per cent of students with special educational needs in mainstream schools also take MTL, she said.
“As the score range for those taking Foundation MTL is AL6 to AL8, it would be difficult to justify to those offering it why another student who did not sit for the exam could be assigned a higher score,” the minister explained.
ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM FOR STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?
Ms Indranee also addressed questions on delaying the implementation of the new scoring system for existing cohorts and considering another system for students with special educational needs.
The minister, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is going to change the national exam scoring system and it would “not be feasible” for a small group of students to remain under the existing T-score system or use an aggregate score of three subject scores as this would not be comparable with others.
To illustrate the size of this group of students, Ms Indranee said in reply to Ms Phua’s follow-up question that about 4.5 per cent of students a year are exempted from taking MTL and 3 per cent of these include those with special educational needs.
She pointed out that MOE recognises that students with special educational needs put in “tremendous effort” to cope with their learning and has increased resources to help these students, as well as those in special education schools.
“Ultimately in grading, scores have to reflect standards instead of effort or circumstances,” she said.
“They are relevant factors, but we should exercise (that) judgement during admission mechanisms like the Direct School Admission (DSA), instead of compromising the consistency and integrity of the assessment and grading system.”