National Day Rally 2013

It has been nearly a month since the National Day Rally 2013. I am sure that everybody has heard and read about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcements. In addition, the Ministry of Education has followed up by giving some additional information regarding these announcements.

Let’s do a quick summary of the main changes and what do we think of these changes in RG Channel Future School.

Extended Edusave Accounts

From 2014 onwards, all children of ages 7-16 of Singapore citizens between the ages will receive Edusave contributions. This includes students who are in Madrasahs, privately funded schools, home-schooled or residing overseas.

This is definitely good news for children who are not studying in mainstream schools. While there are still some questions, like what educational opportunities are MOE going to allow to be funded, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Broader admissions under the Direct School Admissions (DSA)

The number of students that can be admitted under the Direct School Admissions (DSA) scheme will broaden. The original aim of the scheme was to allow students with special talents in sports, arts or technology to be admitted in secondary schools. Students with leadership skills or show good character could also be admitted.

The good thing about this scheme is that it allows students who might not be academically excellent but have a special talent, to enter good secondary schools. Extending this scheme seems to make sense in stressing that success in education is not just based on academics.

However, there are two caveats.

First, is a system problem. How does one measure character or leadership? Can we give a grade to a student’s leadership skills? How can we even compare the character between two students? The processes schools go through to select their students will have to be thought out carefully.

Secondly, a note of caution to parents who push their children to these schools. I have seen many examples of students that take part in the scheme only to discover that they struggle academically in school. A minority of these even get retained. So parents need to ensure that their child is ready to enter a school where the majority of the students have generally scored higher PSLE scores.

Removal of the T-score in PSLE

In the future, PSLE students would not know their PSLE T-score. They would only know the banding of their subjects, just like the O and A levels.

While some teachers and parents interviewed by the media praised this measure as reducing stress, I do not think it is effective in reducing stress to the general school population. While it is true that with this change, students need not to be so obsessed in chasing the one mark which could make a difference in their T-score, it does not change the fundamental reasons why there is stress. The real reason of stress is competition to enter brand name secondary schools. As long as this competition is not removed, there will be stress.

Reserved places for P1 Admission

Another change is that every primary school in Singapore will now be required to set aside at least 40 places, or between 10 and 15 per cent of their enrolment, for children with no prior connection to the school. Subsequently, MOE announced that the places will go to Phases 2B and 2C.

These changes don’t seem to have any impact in many schools. Of course that being said, many schools don’t have lots of parents trying to get in. Some of the more popular schools will be affected as there will probably be less spaces in the earlier phases. However, these students who did not get in the earlier phases might join in in 2B and 2C instead. Therefore, while there is a higher possibility that children with no connection with the school might be able to enter, it is not a guarantee.

In conclusion, the government has tweaked certain policies to make it seem somewhat fairer, like the reserved spaces for P1 Admission. However, alumni still get priority. Some changes are great and the government should be given credit for them. The Extended Edusave accounts and the increased number of DSA places are great schemes. So is the removal of T-score in PSLE. It does not remove stress completely, but it does reduce it. Removing stress completely is silly and unrealistic, if you ask me.

The government has made good steps in its education policies. The government can do more and we will address this issue in our future blog post.