The Forward SG report articulates well Singapore's hopes for its future, and we hope that it will lead to concrete policies and actions to revamp our primary education system for the 21st century.
We agree that we need to focus on more important aspects of our children’s experiences, reduce their stress and that PSLE should not become a high-stakes checkpoint for students. However the current reality is that PSLE results still determine the next 4 to 6 years of a child’s life. The long-standing anxiety tied to PSLE is deeply ingrained across generations, making it challenging to change given the current system.
We must recognise that the root issue lies in PSLE being the main performance indicator for our primary education system. Many high-ranking countries in PISA have their first major exams from age 15. Early selection leads to academic inequity and is less inclusive. To address this, we need a through-train system connecting primary and secondary schools, with fair allocation and intake procedures.
The best education systems combine equity and quality, offering all children a nurturing and stimulating environment. However, achieving this becomes challenging in a classroom with 40 students. Large class sizes limit teachers' ability to cater to diverse needs and appreciate individual talents.
The OECD average for public primary school classes is 21 children. Smaller class sizes are vital for improving efficiency and ensuring students receive the attention they deserve from teachers. This is especially important for children with special education needs, who require tailored support and accommodations for equitable learning. Additionally, primary schools need better resources, including well-trained counsellors, SEN teachers, therapists, and psychologists, to address students' mental health and meet their diverse learning needs.
The Forward SG report envisions embracing learning beyond grades. We will need more than encouragement and inspiration to realise this vision. We need a fundamental change in how we incentivise and resource primary school education, in order to shift the entrenched grade-oriented mindsets in our society.
Of course, we can all do our part to preserve the mental health and well-being of our individual children. But to help our country as a whole better prepare for the new economy, we need to push for real reform of the primary school system.
Let’s work towards the education system our children deserve, living in a developed country.
Let’s work towards lasting change.
Extract from ForwardSG report, pg 22