No need for PSLE exams to be so tough

Education minister Ong wanted to change the education system to reduce the stress for students.

I examined his changes and declared that they do not address the root of the problem. I was proved right.

What happened?

I said that the underlying problem is that the education system aims to pick the top students for the top secondary school and later for scholarships to prestigious overseas universities.

If the reward is set at a high level, parents will continue to do the best that they can to make sure that their children become top students. The children from wealthy families will continue to get the advantage. Those from poorer families will be disadvantaged.

To get rid of this competition, we have to stop identifying the top students. We should only look for students who passed and those who failed. In each cohort, about 90% should pass in each year.

If the focus of the examination is changed, most students will continue to work reasonably hard to pass in each year. This will achieve the goal of the education system – to get students who are well educated, and who can think.

Why did I say that the new system proposed by the education system has failed? Surely, it is too early to say?

The answer is obvious. It is reflected in the complaint by a mother that the questions set for the Mathematics paper are too tough, and that caused her son to be discouraged and disillusioned. It seemed that the questions are being set at a high level to pick out the top students.

The harm and negative impact of this approach is daunting. The goal of the education system should be to encourage and not to discourage the students.

We need to change the focus. We have to stop trying to identify the top students. We have to stop trying to identifying the people who should get the prestigious and valuable overseas scholarships – to be followed by an iron rice bowl for a million dollar career in the public sector.

Minister Ong – I hope you are listening.


Tan Kin Lian




20 Responses to “No need for PSLE exams to be so tough”


    Dear TKL,
    Are you stupid ?

    We are now in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 where AI and other tech advancement are heating up global competition.

    But you old coot want to lower the standard of our children education and let them fall behind the global competition ?

    Hear, hear, Singaporeans. Opposition wants your children to fall behind global competition and only job for you is clean table or sign on NS.

    Beside clean table job for you, what can opposition do for you ?

    PAP huat, huat, huat ah… 9% GST is good…
    What’s wrong with collecting more money…

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  • Harder Truths:

    The focus is now to make sure our qualifications from an early age make us feel insecure and inferior to FT.

    Then when FT with loads of bullshit certifications from their grandmother’s printing press take the $G jobs there will be no resistance.

    Just to make more sheep earlier.

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  • Believe you die:

    With the MSMs and the POFMA exemption, own SAY own ACT, maybe with Hong Kong Wan-Jing as the director.

    Nowadays, I simply lost my trust in them. I believe many Sinkies are feeling the same.

    Imagine, as a education minister, instead of promoting for education excellence, he said No need U-degree, hinting to be grab drivers or hawkers as the in-things, while foreign degrees flooded in to displace us. Failed Education System under them that we are seeing foreign cheap degrees displacing all the Polys, A-Levels, ITE created under them.

    You believe them, you die. Time to Change the whole string of them before our Children Future are all washed out by them.

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  • High IQ But No EQ ?:

    Ya u get the ones who can memorize very well and send them to top Universities and end up as million dollars Ministers who will cock up the system.

    Just look at Singapore now, many of the Ministers did a lot mistakes some fatal ones and Pinky let them go Auto Pilot and no action taken against them.

    These ‘intelligent’ ones can only react to problems only but have no capability to anticipate them before these problems cropped up. The most recent example is the PMD death case. Before they approve for PMD to be allowed on footpath, common corridors, void decks and bus stops, they should have expected problems of reckless and speedy riding. They could have prepare the laws and infrastructure to accommodate these PMD especially E Scooters. So after a number of serious injuries and deaths, now they are still uncertain as what to do.

    Another example is allowing over two million foreigners to work in Singapore. Have they thought over whether we have enough water, food and place for them in our small island ? The recent dip in the water level at the Johor river must have given them some panic. More people means more water use especially from India as they need to wash up after doing their business.

    These ‘intelligent’ Ministers and civil servants are unlike the LKY and his Ministers who can forecast and predict incoming problems.

    Continue voting for these ‘intelligent’ people in the coming GE and our future generation will be screwed up because of our stupid decision.

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  • Michael:

    Of course the education have to be tough. This is ways to make the children commit sucide at young age.

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  • A serious view of Sg edn:

    Singapore Education Ministry squeezes a lot of higher level stuff into lower levels. Sg students in primary school are exposed to materials that other countries teach in their secondary levels. And so on.
    (If you don’t believe, you can check this out. Sg migrating students easily ace their study at other countries because they ALREADY learned those in Sg. And vice versa.)

    That PSLE question is an illustrating case. That kind of problem appears at A levels, not primary 6.

    1) Sg global tests look very good. For example, among 15 year old, Sg students rank high. This is just a matter of early exposure.
    2) Sg students are stressed out early.
    3) Sg students do not have time to explore other stuffs not covered in their school courses. Even with tuition, also not enough time to do the courses well, how to explore other stuff?
    4) Finally, when Sg students reach university level, they begin to lose out to other countries. Other students have a broader foundation, they are not so stressed out, and they catch up with the stuffs by university level.

    Those civil servants and ministers in MOE are damaging our students. Period.

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  • TruBlu:

    During my time, only 6 pct of A levels students could get a place in the only 2 univ, UNIV SG OR NYU.

    But so what?
    Many of those PMEs lost their jobs at much younger age around early 40s becos of FT POLICY!

    NOW, govt who grant scholarships to FT-kids tell sgs no need to go univ.
    Just go n learn how to be hawkers?

    Go get the stats.

    This is $in City.
    It is no more Singapura.
    It is $inPAPura?

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  • No need so tough ?:

    You are competing not local and also regionally if not internationally.

    China 996 ? How many bachelor graduates , master graduates and doctor graduates every year from China ?

    The only one that can relax are those rent seeking ones. Even so they may get the wrong tenants who delay payments or dont pay even run road.

    How many foreign workers without paying fines to the libraries, phone bills/ mobiles subscription fees , internet subscription fees, rental, some even borrow ah long ( e.g. maids ), credit cards or bank loans , fines, ….. etc ? Quite sure a pretty big share.

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  • Winnie le Poop le Pappy:

    (RE: But you old coot want to lower the standard of our children education and let them fall behind the global competition?)

    “I am knowledgeable enough about the world of prizes to realize that there is a large degree of luck – both for the recognitions that you receive and those that you did not… Teachers must be encouraged – I’d almost say ‘freed’, to pursue an education that strives for depth of understanding… Teaching which ignores the realities of various children will be rejected by them as surely as any surgical graft which ignores the body’s immune system.”

    [Dr. Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition & Education, Harvard University.]

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  • Identify the best talent:

    We need a tough examination to differentiate the good, normal and talented student. If everyone score well then there is no way to gauge. It is fine to have a few tough questions. The student will not fail the examination just because the few questions.

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  • Dean Don:

    To understand academic vs practical world
    1. Ask yourselves, which Dean of Science and Technology you know has invented best technology in the world?

    2. Which top scorer in exams for science or technology has invented anything best in the world?

    The best inventors and entreprenuers are never exam top scorers as far as i know.

    Is Eugene an academic or politician or neither here nor there?

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  • Partial truth?:

    @ 1. Ask yourselves, which Dean of Science and Technology you know has invented best technology in the world?

    Not true but not wrong, china 5g huawei we have many professors, masters and bachelor s behind.
    There are many , just that we dont know and the invention did not take off.

    Sometime the techology invented is good but did not become popularised.
    E.g. QR code was invented by japan but they did not foresee it become so popular.

    x mini hamburger speaker was also invented by japanese . X mini guy just saw the opportunity and successfully marketed it ( the copyright already over ) and make it popular.

    Steve jobs cannot r & d any hardware nor can write any software codes. But he can come up with innovative ideas and make it a product. Initially MP3 was not by apple. They make ipod become popular and of course music label supported download for a cheap price. Of course none of pap is steve job caliber. Then again steve jobs also an strange character and sometimes very A – hole.

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  • HDB flats depreciate to ZERO:

    Education has to be “tough” for many reasons:

    (1) Divert the attention of parents from politics.

    (2) Use the money of parents on private tuition so they are poorer and will more grateful for PAP handouts.

    (3) Too many local graduates are a threat to PAP political dominance. Graduates are more knowledgeable, more confident, more idealistic, likely more vocal and more electable if they join the opposition parties.

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  • Rabble-rouser:

    PAP’s accelerated method of education is not true learning but rather a culling mechanism for weeding out the slow learners from their eco-system. Their Meritocratic Scholar system is so skewed towards academic marks which doesn’t form a well-rounded individual. It only enhances an Elitist Structure full of arrogant twits whose only capability were for doing well for exams. That is why they are failing in a Knowledge Economy!

    If you truly understand PAP’s unique Educational Mechanism. They shift the cost of education to the parents. The school curriculum is too condensed & too accelerated for the majority. In S’pore, teachers don’t really teach but instead they skimmed over the subject matter quickly. Instead, it fall on the parent’s lap to engage tutors & sending their children to cram schools in order to do well in exams. Parents spent SG$1.4 billion on tuition & other ancillary educational services in S’pore. Such spending only enhances Elitist behaviours! And it is Elites self-reinforcing for only the rich can afford the real costs of S’pore education.

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that PAP’s educational mechanism moulds exam-smart end products with little to no problem sotionalving capacity. It also creates a stressful, fearful & compliant citizenry whose pathways to success are controlled by govt mechanisms. It is a mechanism that is set to fail when individualism & when “thinking-out-of-the-box” are required. S’poreans immensed within the PAP system came up short!

    PAP’s system of managing people is about creating artificial shortages (constraints) of supply & creating huge demand which will never be satisfied. You will understand when you see silly S’poreans chasing after material things of low value (McDonalds Happy meal gifts) while unable to comprehend their own bleak existence.

    S’poreans will not understand what I write. Instead, nitpickers will pick on some obscure points to drive home their arguments. These are the type of people who would queue hours for a cheap smartphone but failed to understand their bleak existence. Their funeral!

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  • lying pap S$m thieving liars:

    there are 3 elite secondary school systems in Singapore after PSLE.

    1st, the Cina system aka SAP system. here there are 2 elite schools, 2 only, one for boys aka Chinese High School or Hwa Chong Institution, and one for girls aka Nanyang Girls’ High School. but because it is SAP school, any non Cina HMT already zero kosong zilch chance to be admitted. despite the Cina HMT requirement, competition for a spot in the 2 schools is very keen. so without the PSLE tough questions, how to sort out the best Cina scholars apart from the also rans?

    2nd, the cosmopolitan system. here again there are 2 schools, named after ang mo raffles. anyone whether Cina HMT or otherwise has a shot. so competition for a spot is very, very fierce. so without a good PSLE segregation system, it is impossible to say which ah beng daughter or which ah lian son should be admitted to the 2 ang mo schools. therefore need PSLE chim chim. the PSLE must be very tough. no compromise is possible.

    3rd, the moneyed clan methodist schools. here are the ang mo sounding anglo yet chinese schools, such as singapore chinese girls schools. generally these are the S$m folks in Singapore. but since Singapore is a small island and 10% of the top moneyed folks already too many for the ang mo sounding chinese schools to fully accommodate. so without the chim and very tough PSLE to sort out who among the S$m folks can be allotted a spot or not, there shall be chaos since every one of these folks money wise can out bid any 70% sheep son or daughter for a spot.

    alas. looking at end result, such as school boy from ang mo raffles tan kin lian, it sure speaks poorly of ang mo school. maybe in the 1960s there was no fierce competition to get into such school so any ah beng ah lian can gain access. otherwise cannot explain for the pea brained tan kin lian from ang mo raffles. in the law of nature, tan kin lian is an example of a black swan in an otherwise white sky.

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  • To Mr Tan:

    Maybe MOE should adopt polytechnics policy.
    95% passing rate, otherwise lecturers have to write report.
    Give hints and similar-to-exam-questions for practices just before exam, otherwise the students may forget.
    Give A, subject to higher up stipulated limit of 30% of the students.
    Students are happy, morale is high.
    Back to serious matter, some good students may stumble and lose plenty of time trying to solve these 3 difficult questions, leaving little time to do and check other easier questions. The teachers may have told them the strategy and time management, and the students have to learn and adapt accordingly.
    I think the mother who wrote to the minister, and her ilk, and their children expect to have perfect or close to perfect scores, it is not about morale of the students, the students have to be realistic.
    How about those B grade students? the C students? They may not be able to afford tuition and get good grades, they live with their results.

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  • Anonymous incognito:

    I hate school in Singapore. Despite all the talk, it causes nothing but strife. Parents and kids are at each other’s throat over results. So much for familial harmony all the politics pontificate about

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  • DavidNeo&IreneVanessa:Idiots:

    Oh my, getting primary school kids to attempt university level stuff. Very ambitious.

    Kids nowadays also like to say OMG, weird, shit, WTF. Gret job, schools.

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  • sure pass one:

    //Maybe MOE should adopt polytechnics policy.
    95% passing rate, otherwise lecturers have to write report.
    Give hints and similar-to-exam-questions for practices just before exam, otherwise the students may forget.//

    yar lor. like 151th standard when 4 = 5 and selected = elected hor for own kaki lang whereas all others have to undergo tougher ‘exams’ hor ?

    got hints or not under such environment, some white idiots and gang sure pass one with flying colour one leh ????

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  • To the adjunct lecturer:

    Maybe MOE should set easy questions such that C grade students will get an A too? A student who failed in his prelim gets a B.
    The students morale will be high.
    But your kid or yourself may still not be happy because your straight A child still cannot get into the school of his or your choice.
    Basically, we Singaporeans want the cake and eat it.

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