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Changes to PSLE Scoring and Sec 1 Posting

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Back in April this year, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced that the current Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) T-score system will be scrapped and replaced by a new system with wider scoring bands – similar to the O- and A-Levels’ – from the 2021 Primary 6 cohort (or those in Primary 1 this year). 

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has finally revealed the details of the changes that will be made to the PSLE system and secondary 1 posting. These are:

1) Scores to reflect students’ own performance and wider scoring bands 


Image: MOE

In the current system, a student’s aggregate score is the sum of T-scores in all four subjects. Parents and students have been frustrated that the aggregate is presented as an adjusted score in relation to his peers – this is believed to lead to the high levels of stress a student feels while in constant competition with them.  

In the new system, the T-score will be scrapped. This means that how well a student does is independent of his peers. 

Instead, students’ marks will be converted to Achievement Levels (AL) and his PSLE score is the sum of his ALs in four subjects. MOE states that “moving to Achievement Levels (ALs), students are not so finely differentiated on the basis of every mark. Students who demonstrate similar achievement will receive the same AL”.

Note that the AL levels do not reflect a consistent raw mark range. Those in the lower ALs have a wider mark range. MOE explains that the wider range at the lower ALs is “sufficient to give a good indication of a student’s progress and further differentiation is less educationally meaningful.”  At the higher AL levels where students generally do well for PSLE, a tighter range will help to differentiate students. 

Will this prove to be an effective move to reduce stress in our students? Some parents feel that this might actually have the unintended effect of causing more, not less, stress as students at the lower ALs have to work much harder to move up, and students at the upper ALs will still work towards obtaining a higher AL. 

2) Choice order to matter more as a tie-breaker (during Sec 1 posting)

MOE is encouraging parents to spend time discussing with their children when choosing secondary schools, and to choose according to the school’s ethos, culture, programmes and CCAs, as well as distance between the school and home. But what is also important is the choice order of schools. Refer to the graphic below:


Image: MOE

Your child will submit a list of 6 schools in order of preference. If two students with the same score are being considered for the last place in a school, the following tie-breakers will be used:

    • Citizenship
      (priority given to Singapore Citizens, then Singapore Permanent Residents, then International Students)

    • Choice order of schools 
      (priority given to the student who indicates a certain school as a higher choice)

    • Computerised balloting

What are your thoughts on these changes? It remains to be seen how well they can address the issue of stress and the overemphasis on grades, and alter the education landscape in Singapore, but what’s for certain is that for any positive effect to be seen, the process require help and cooperation of parents. We’ve given you some tips on developing your child’s character in our August issue of Singapore’s Child (Issue 176), and in this article

We’d love to hear your opinions on these changes proposed by MOE. Leave them in the comments section below!