If you’re P1 parent stressed by the new PSLE grading, an educator spells out what this means for junior…

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“New PSLE banding!” Everyone in the mummy-blogosphere with a child in P1 (or younger) is all a-twitter about it. So, what does it actually mean to someone whose child is just entering the school system?

We talked to Isabelle Loo, a former Ministry of Education educator, who explains what impact the change in the PSLE grading system in 2021 will have on your child.

Walk us through the new banding system…

Since the new PSLE scoring system will be put in place in 2021, it’ll only affect the current P1 students, who will be in P6 by then.

The current system uses a T-score [short for “transformed score”], which basically measures a child’s performance against their cohort [the child’s peers]. So, a child will do really, really well if they are way ahead of their cohort. But even though a child may be very bright, if they aren’t above the others, in terms of results, they’ll be deemed “average” and get a very average score of C.

[Also, if that cohort is super-smart] if everybody gets tuition and is all prepared, it means that “average” is getting higher and higher [scores]. It’s already very hard to be really move out of the C-score range… Also the mean score of the cohort gets higher. The mean score was taken as the “passing mark”. So, it was getting more and more challenging to be above that…

The new system actually recognises a child based on their own results. If this is your score, this is your band. They don’t compare you to your peers anymore.
It’s more fair because the whole objective of assessment is to find out whether you have understood the concept, whether you have reached that milestone. So, if the child has already shown their capacity, capability to solve the question and get the mark, it recognises the child’s success.

So how does this affect children’s learning? The Ministry of Education has stated that the new system is to “offer a good balance”…

If your child is not going to be compared with other people in terms of a relative academic head start, then they will have to produce a more robust portfolio to stand out.

For example, this means that if you would like your child to go to a better school, you will have to show that they have leadership qualities, maybe, or has done a lot of social work. Perhaps they had invested in programming, because the child loves programming. So, a child will really have to have very good portfolio to supplement their results.

Read on to find out what options are available to junior if their study grades aren’t stellar…

But won’t that mean that people will be driving their kids to even more CCAs and other activities?

I think the children will be happy to be very busy with CCAs. Because now what happens is that they are very busy doing academic things and it’s very dry! I myself went through that system and it’s very dry... I think I would be very happy going for, you know, all the fun things.

For instance, assuming a family has done its part in supporting their child in learning — but with all their support, the child’s result is just like that, then I would say let the parents enrol the child in a different genre of enrichment.
[My company, CoachReg, promotes eight learning styles or “multiple intelligences”, and on our site] the child can discover themselves. Because even now as adults, we’re discovering ourselves. What more for a child?

How can learning more about a variety of “intelligences” help you help your child through school?

Basically, the parent’s job is to make sure they give the child the best education and to support his education in the school, as much as possible. If the child can do well, great. If the child can’t do well... [Our school system has a] very heavy focus on linguistic and logical intelligences, so we have to make sure that the child is exposed to other intelligences and other areas, so that they can find out that perhaps they are also strong in them.

Or even if they are a total failure in [mainstream] school, this doesn’t mean that they are not strong in other areas. Some children blossom in ITE because they are allowed to do very kinesthetic things with a lot of movement, visual, spatial. Like cooking…

But parents might say, “I wanted a doctor/lawyer.”

That’s the parent’s expectations…children are very different and even between children, they are very different. And children are very different from us.

In fact it is very interesting to see that how a strength is passed on. My husband and I, for example, are very strong in math, so both of us learnt finance. However, my son is very strong in math as well and logic, so he expresses it in programming.

Isabelle Loo, a fomer educator and senior education officer with the Ministry of Education, is the founder of education resource actualyse.com, a one-stop interactive directory that supports educators, parents and learners.

Photo: iStock

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