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Tweak PSLE, more character-building needed, Education Minister told

Doing away with streaming in secondary schools or having the normal stream in all schools could reduce stigma and increase mixing among Singaporean pupils, some 50 participants said at last night’s Our Singapore Conversation on Education session attended by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In addition, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores could be weighed equally with internal schools’ assignments or other non-academic talents, so that entry into secondary schools is based on a more holistic assessment.

And to address the overwhelming demand for private tutoring, schools could be appraised by how many of their students attend tuition, while the Ministry of Education (MOE) could also consider revising the syllabus and reducing students’ workload.

These were among a slew of suggestions offered by the participants, about two-thirds of whom are parents, at the second Our Singapore Conversation on Education session.

The three-hour session was centered on two topics: Stress and an excessive focus on examinations and grades; ensuring opportunities, social mobility and inclusion.

Participants were first split into 11 small groups, with the meeting rounding off with a large group discussion. Mr Heng went around different groups and weighed in occasionally on proposals mooted by the attendees.

For instance, he noted that Co-Curricular Activities could count towards the entrance criteria into secondary school, but that might also mean parents then over-emphasizing their children’s CCAs performance.

During the last hour of the discussion, attendees also got a chance to hear common viewpoints while several members of the public took the opportunity to raise issues with Mr Heng.

They lamented the lack of focus on character-building in schools while other highlighted that there is too much distinction between the different types of schools.

Mr Heng conducted a few informal surveys with participants such as abolishing or keeping the PSLE. To which, votes for either option were about the same.