Today, MOE announced that from 2019 onwards, P1 and P2 students will no longer have any form of weighted assessment and exams. Meanwhile, P3 and P5 students will not be having SA1 exams after 2020.
The Rationale Behind The News
The purpose of reducing weighted exams is to (i) reduce the emphasis on academic results and (ii) to encourage a love for life long learning.
OUR ANALYSIS – What is the impact on PSLE and beyond?
Less emphasis on weighted assessments for P1 and P2 students will:-
- Shift the focus to learning by encouraging curiosity and play
- Provide less opportunity for the unhealthy comparison of marks between children and parents
- Lead to a happier and more balanced childhood when children learn without the burden of acing their exams
1. The impact on languages by P3
From 2019 onwards, there will be no weighted assessments and exams for P1 and P2 students. This is not necessarily good for the learning of languages. It takes time and constant reinforcement to make sure a young child has a good foundation. This applies to both the main language of instruction, English and also the Mother Tongue language. In order to make sure that the child is more or less on par with the national curriculum, it would be hard to do so when there is no formal assessment. If they are not on par with the average student in his/her cohort, the child will struggle to learn along with his/her P3 class later.
At the start of P3, children are expected to be able (i) to write passages and short compositions, (ii) to write open-ended answers in comprehensions and (iii) to insert appropriate words in cloze passages. If there is no form of formal assessment from the start of P1 till the end of P3, when SA2 takes place, parents may only realise that their children are struggling after 3 years of formal schooling. This can cause panic and stress which will in turn demoralise the child.
2. The impact on P5 students
From 2020 onwards, there will be no SA1 exams at P5. Every year, the P5 SA1 exam serves as a wake up call for many students around the nation. Some say that the stress is created because schools set such difficult SA1 exam papers. However, many parents and educators also acknowledge that the P5 SA1 marks drop dramatically because many of the hardest topics and skills are taught and tested in P5. In fact, the bulk of what is tested in PSLE is taught at P5. The point of PSLE is to ensure that 12 year olds are assessed to see if they have a good enough foundation before they continue with secondary schooling. Thus, by removing the SA1, students and parents have less time to brush up on concepts and skills that are needed for learning beyond primary school.
3. More tests and other assessment methods
It has been announced that schools are allowed to conduct a maximum of 1 weighted assessment per subject per term. This means students may have 4 weighted assessments per year. This is not inclusive of SA1 and SA2. In addition to this, traditional format of examination can be replaced by class tests, quizzes, presentations and group projects. Simply put, students may still be assessed in other ways aside from SA1 and SA2.
It is debatable as to whether many smaller tests are less stressful than 1 or 2 major exams. Is it really better to have many smaller sized tests throughout the year compared to 2 major exams?
The intention and the spirit behind the latest move is good and positive. However, throughout the world, most educators agree that the assessment of learning is important. Assessment in the form of exams are a critical way in which schools are able to monitor how well and how much students have learnt. It enables teachers and schools to plug the holes so that students are able to reflect and improve. That is why the PSLE remains a cornerstone of the Singapore education system.
For P3-P5 students, twice yearly exams are not the problem. The problem occurs when young children learn with the sole aim of scoring for exams. Most children benefit when learning is supported with honest, kind and timely feedback. Aside from analysing why exam marks have improved or deteriorated, post-exam feedback should encourage and reinforce some important life values:-
- The belief that hard work and discipline pays, eventually
- The acceptance that not everyone can be ‘number 1’
- The belief that one’s self worth is not solely dictated by our academic scores
- The recognition that exam skills such as precision and good time management skills are valuable habits that last beyond any exam.