Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's about who can afford better tutors

As posted on ST Forum:

LAST Thursday, my daughter received her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. We were proud of her 252, not because it is high, but because she wanted no help and designed her own study schedule with no external or home tuition. It will get her to the secondary school of her choice, which is what the PSLE is supposed to do, and nothing else. To us, it does not measure her intelligence or maturity against her cohort, give any gauge of her academic ability or provide any bearing on her future.

The PSLE is no longer the placement exam it was designed to be. Through the years, it has evolved into an exam that divides the haves and have-nots among our 12-year-olds.

While hinting at a student’s academic ability, the PSLE measures more the family’s ability to find and pay for good tuition teachers. Those who have money to employ tuition teachers will inevitably do better than their peers with equal academic ability. Many parents fork out thousands of dollars a year to prepare their children for this exam, in the hope of getting them into a better school. Therefore, a lucrative shadow education system is forming, with many good school teachers leaving for it.

A few years ago, the Ministry of Education introduced the Direct School Admission (DSA) programme with some top secondary schools. Those who display talents ‘beyond’ their peers get into these schools via DSA. This fuelled anxious parents scrambling to enrol their children in numerous art, music and sports programmes.

Students from well-to-do families will get into better secondary schools. Students from one-income families who have a stay-home parent and can be driven around can pack in more tuition and activities. With money, students can participate in overseas training, exposure trips and competitions. These beef up their testimonials – a criterion many good secondary schools use to choose their students.

If all this fails to get the average child into a good school, knowledgeable parents will know how to bypass the normal PSLE route, via the supplementary intake or appeal round, visiting principals and authorities to persuade them to accept their child, even if his score falls below the cut-off point.

If average students with tuition, enrichment classes, credible sporting endeavours and smart parents are taking all the places in the good schools, what does that leave bright, promising but poorer students?

Pamela Liu (Ms)

What do u all think? I can’t help but agree…

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