Photo credit: PSLERESULTS.COM,

Controversy over new PSLE grading system

Can PSLE students benefit from a 'O' level-like grading system?

Christopher Parwani

Published: 8 April 2016, 10:24 PM

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) may soon do away with the traditional aggregate scoring to reduce pressure and stress on primary school students.

The aggregate score in PSLE will be replaced with wider scoring bands, similar to those used in the ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams.

What’s going on?

Earlier today, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced in Parliament that changes to the current PSLE aggregate will be implemented in 2021. Students who are in Primary 1 this year will be the first batch to be graded under the new system.

The current scoring system, specifically T-score, is an estimated indicator of how well a student fares in the exam.

The proposed revamp was first brought up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech in 2013. He said that this aggregate system was “too fine”, and a one point difference could mean a lot during the secondary school posting for a 12-year-old student.

When the T-score system gets replaced with wider bands, it may reduce the competition among students who chase after the last few points.

“If you get an A* that is an A*, it does not matter where it is 91 A* or 99 A*. It is an A* and that is good enough,” said PM Lee.

When the announcement was made in 2013, it garnered mixed reactions among parents and students. Some welcomed the change, while others prefer the current system.




Republic Polytechnic student Nellie Qistina, 18, felt that changes to the grading system would be beneficial, but it will take time before we see obvious changes to stress levels in Singaporean kids.

Nellie, who has two primary school-going brothers, said: “The T-score has always made students nit-pick on minute points. But the pressure [to do well] is already present among students [who are always] trying to do better than each another. These students have been doing test papers that still include marks, making them stress over even half a mark.”

“If they wanted to encourage holistic learning, it would take time to take off. They cannot expect distinct changes instantaneously,” added Nellie.

While some youths are hopeful about the news changes, others like local polytechnic student Fasiha Nazren, 18, felt that it is an inevitable Singaporean trait to be stressed over PSLE.

“I still think the pressure is going to be there, regardless of the changes in the grading system. Singaporeans are kiasu by nature, so they will still find a way to feel stressed over their kids’ major examinations,” said Fasiha, whose younger sister is taking the PSLE next year.

What’s your take?

  1. Do you prefer the current aggregate system or the proposed grading system? Why?
  2. How else can we reduce the pressure of primary school students?

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