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    Jan 20, 2016

    Student assessment will go beyond results: MOE

    IN THE next five years, students can expect less emphasis on their academic results and more time and space to pursue their interests in schools as well as engage in outdoor activities.

    As they move to the tertiary level, the polytechnics, institutes of technical education (ITE) and universities will assess them on attributes beyond academic scores.

    These Education Ministry (MOE) plans were outlined yesterday by Acting Education ministers Ng Chee Meng (Schools) and Ong Ye Kung (Higher Education and Skills).

    They were set out in an addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address in Parliament on Friday, when he mapped out the Government's goals and policies for its new five-year term.

    MOE's move to reduce the overemphasis on academic results continues an effort that began about five years ago to make learning more enjoyable and examinations not be "overly perceived" as "high-stake endeavours".

    It will give primary school pupils more opportunities to pursue and develop their interest in the arts, music and sports, the ministers said.

    The policy comes amid expectations from educators, parents and pupils of a revamp of the way that those taking the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) are graded right down to the last decimal point, a system called the T-score.

    It will be replaced by grade bands similar to the A1 to F9 grades linked to the O-level examination, a change Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in 2013 to take place in a few years' time.

    Denise Phua, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said that it will take time for mindsets to change.

    "Not announcing the top PSLE scores or tweaking the PSLE system will not change the underlying perception about high-stakes exams.

    "Tuition, even for the stronger students, will still be a feature and a security blanket," she noted. "A lot more attention has to be made to address this mindset."

    Last year, then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is now Finance Minister, said PSLE changes may take place this year at the earliest. Parents and children had been assured they will be given enough time to respond and adjust.

    The ministry also said in its addendum that strong emphasis will be placed on outdoor education. The approach came under the spotlight last year when a group of Primary 6 pupils died in an earthquake while trekking up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. The tragedy sparked fierce debate, with some calling for a ban on overseas expeditions while others defended the merits of such trips.

    The two ministers are in favour of outdoor activities, saying they "build... ruggedness and resilience in our students".