PSLE T-score to be replaced with wider scoring bands in 2021

PSLE T-score to be replaced with wider scoring bands in 2021

The Primary School Leaving Examination will adopt scoring bands similar to those of Ordinary and Advanced Level as the Ministry of Education seeks “to reduce over-emphasis on academic results”.

Students at St Hilda’s Primary School during the release of the PSLE results in 2013. (File photo: Ernest Chua/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Beginning with the 2021 Primary 6 cohort, the Primary School Leaving Examination’s (PSLE) aggregate scoring will be replaced by grades or bands similar to the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary (O) and Advanced (A) Level system adopted by secondary schools and junior colleges, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday (April 8).

PSLE T-score to be replaced with wider scoring bands in 2021

What you need to know about upcoming changes to the PSLE T-score:

Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Friday, 8 April 2016

The changes were first announced in 2013 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a year after the MOE stopped naming the top scorers of each PSLE cohort amidst widespread criticism of the pressurising nature of the examination - which takes place after six years of primary education and serves to facilitate placement into secondary schools.

Speaking at the Committee of Supply debates in Parliament, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng declared it was time for Singapore to make a “paradigm shift” away from an over-emphasis on academics.

“Today, academic excellence is a hallmark of the Singapore education system,” he said. “Our students rank highly in international benchmarking studies. We are recognised for the high standards that we have achieved.

“However, the focus of our education system should go beyond test scores. Currently, despite our efforts to move towards a holistic education, there is still a narrow emphasis on academics and paper qualifications. This is deeply ingrained in our culture, translated into the expectations of our children, parents, and teachers. Eventually, this is perhaps even manifested in employer mind-sets in workplaces,” Mr Ng added.

“We need a better balance in our students’ education journey. This means dialling back an excessive focus on academics.”


Moving on to the PSLE, Mr Ng noted a “deeply ingrained mindset” that it is a “very high-stakes” examination.

“Many perceive that a child’s PSLE score at the age of 12 determines his or her success and pathway in life,” he said. “But we know this is not true, from the stories of many who have done well in life despite not doing well in their PSLE.”

Mr Ng also acknowledged the PSLE’s calculation of the T-score - Transformed Score, used to standardise raw scores and rank pupils relative to others - “may have created unhealthy competition among our young children”.

“Because it is calculated based on how students do relative to one another, students may feel the pressure to do better than their peers rather than help each other out to learn,” he said. “This runs counter to the values we want to inculcate in our children. We can find a better balance between encouraging our students to study hard and get good results, and making them overly-competitive and anxious about outdoing one another.”

To that end, MOE will move to overhaul the PSLE’s scoring system to reduce the fine distinction of students based on examination scores at a young age and allow students more time and space to develop more holistically, said Mr Ng.

“Some broad level of differentiation is still needed, to guide students to academic programmes that best suit their interests and strengths. But the scoring will be blunted to a large extent,” he said.

The new scoring system will better reflect students’ learning and level of mastery. “Once a student shows a level of understanding and ability that meets the professionally-set standard, he will receive the grade, regardless of how his peers perform,” said Mr Ng. “This is more educationally meaningful.”


Mr Ng then revealed that the changes will apply to students who are Primary 1 this year and taking their PSLE in 2021, with more details to be announced in the next two to three months.

“These planned changes are significant, so MOE will not rush the implementation. The current PSLE system is well-established and we must be fully ready before moving to the new system,” he said.

“We will take the next few years to work through these changes carefully, develop and test the new exam and posting systems. More importantly, we will give enough time and support for parents and students to understand and adjust, so they are also ready when the new system takes effect. We will subsequently also engage parents and members of the public on these changes and provide an update at next year’s Committee of Supply debate.”

Anticipating a slew of questions on the impact on secondary school posting, Mr Ng said MOE also intends to make adjustments to the Secondary 1 posting system.

“It will still be a fair and transparent system based on academic merit,” he assured the House. “With the move to broader PSLE scoring bands, students will be able to choose a school that is a good fit for them from a wider range of schools of a similar academic profile.”

Source: CNA/jo