The Primary School Leaving Examination results were released last week and 96% of the cohort passed. 67% made it to the Express Stream while the rest will continue their education in the Normal or Technical Stream.
The intensity and stress arising from this examination have taken a toll on both the parents and the 12 year olds. It is the first major examination of their young lives as the result would more or less chart the routes they will take into adulthood. Those who qualified for the Express Stream will proceed to the academic course in the secondary schools. Those who ended in the Normal Stream (Academic or Technical) will continue to do likewise but in a slower pace, taking 5 years (for Normal Academic) instead of 4 years in the Express Stream before they sit for their O level Examination. The brighter students would embark on an Integrated Programme that would take them all the way to A level, skipping the O level examination.
The fierce competition to get into the IP stream means that the students would have to do exceptionally well, and one way to ensure that is for private tuitions. For those parents who can afford it, it is money well spent to give their children a leg up in the education system.The IP stream is more or less a guarantee to get into the universities. Many of the IP students would end up receiving govt scholarship and followed by a career in the govt service or in the private sector. They are the cream of their cohorts.
Private tuition has thus been challenged as an unfair advantage given to the rich. There have been calls to moderate this unfairness but no better alternative is available to change the course.
The stress on the students and parents has led to the Ministry's decision not to announce the grades of the top students both nationally and within each respective schools. It ended with no one knowing who are the top students. This is a great departure from the elitist culture of the country, recognising top talents and rewarding top talents. It has come to this stage that for the good of the general cohort and well being, the emphasis on academic excellence at this tender age is best to be sidelined.
The students would thus proceed with their lives minus this little info of who are the brightest and hopefully they need not feel so bad, and their parents as well. A little ignorance is good for everyone. This little game of deception will only last for the next 4 years when the next big exam, the O level, will come into the picture. And subsequently the A level two years later. By then the children would have grown into young adults and probably more able to cope with the disappointment if they did not do that well academically.
At the same time the govt has also made effort to direct the fears of parents into other non academic areas to assure them that academic performance is not the end all of a person's life and to be successful in life. There are many other alternatives where a person can do exceptionally well, be exceptionally successful without having a string of straight As from the education system.