Another dot in the blogosphere?

#PSLE2021 (Part 5): Comments on quotes

Posted on: July 26, 2016

I poke and prod some quotes from various stakeholders of PSLE2021. Links to source material of the quotes are in the headers.

Quote 1

Currently, the T-score (short for transformed score) reflects how well a student did in relation to others in the cohort — using a mathematical formula. A student may have got high marks for a subject, but would receive a lower T-score if most of his peers performed better than him.

This encapsulates the main issue with the current PSLE. It is a sorting model based on bell curve or normal distribution.

There is nothing wrong about making the assumption of normal distribution for a large population. What is doubtful is if a cohort of Primary 6 students is representative of that population.

Quote 2

MOE said the changes are part of a larger shift to nurture well-rounded individuals and move away from an over-emphasis on academic results. They will reduce fine differentiation of students – a key complaint of the current scoring system; reflect a student’s level of achievement regardless of how his peers have done; and encourage families to choose schools based on their suitability for the child’s learning needs, talents and interests.

This quote ticks all the right boxes, but we need to read in between the lines.

Student achievement as measured by standards or criteria instead of comparison with other students in the sample is a good move. I wonder if we have studied the USA’s implementation of Common Core and its testing regimes.

The kickback there is how testing has affected curriculum, restricted teaching, influenced teacher appraisals, and increased stress levels of stakeholders. The only ones that seem to have benefitted from the programme are test companies.

As for the desired change in parental mindsets, read one example in the quote below.

Quote 3

This was also an issue raised by Jean Lim, a former teacher with more than 30 years’ experience. “In the past, if a student scored 75, we could tell parents that their child scored an A, and there were happy. But now, if they score an AL4, which is still considered an A in the old system, they will not be happy, because an AL4 just doesn’t sound as nice,” she said.

The message that the focus will be on the learner and learning will fall on deaf ears if PSLE2021 comes across as only about changes in scoring and school selection.

The current PSLE regime has created a cultural monster that feeds on kiasu-ism and is fueled by enrichment tuition for competition. Numbers like T-scores, aggregates, and cut-off points are the well-understood rules.

We wait with bated breath on what MOE and schools will do to deal with these. If they take action, we do not need more dialogues on what PSLE2021 means. We can read and think. We need MOE and schools to listen and reflect first.

Quote 4

Time needed for parents to change mindset of chasing ‘good schools’

This was an awful title for a forum letter. It is not just time that will change mindsets, as if the influence is somehow automatic. It will take a lot of concerted effort.

There was a plan for the original PSLE in 1960. It changed over time, but it was people that communicated, forced policies through, and implemented the regime. Once enculturated, the PSLE took a life of its own when schools and parents responded to the increased stakes and competition with hot-housing and tuition.

Better than the headline was conclusion of the letter:

The greatest change that this new system is supposed to elicit is a mindset change. With the clock ticking away from now until 2021, more things can be done by schools and the Education Ministry to alleviate the fear and uncertainty that parents feel, to help them have more confidence in the new system.

Quote 5

It depends on what is best for her, not what the best school is,” said Ms Ho. “Ultimately, you want your child to grow up to be a good person with good character, good morals and if you’re always focusing on the academics, you will miss out on other things.

If I was facilitating a change management effort, this quote would be an integral part of the visioning process. Change agents need to visualise what they want to achieve otherwise they will be running blindly.

We need need more parents with this perspective. MOE needs more parents with this perspective.

There already are some who have this mindset. How many are there? What is MOE going to do take advantage of this?

I am being realistic, not blindly optimistic, about the changes in and around PSLE2021. It is piecemeal change, not systemic change. It is evolutionary change, not revolutionary change. It is not enough. More thoughts on this in Part 6 tomorrow.

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