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Need to further define ‘qualitative descriptors’ and non-academic markers that evaluate students’ learning

The changes made by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to cut down on tests and exams have once again sparked debate among Singaporeans. This is similar to the shift in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) banding system for grades that is slated to be introduced in 2021.

Need to further define ‘qualitative descriptors’ and non-academic markers that evaluate students’ learning
Zane Ng Khai Heng

The changes made by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to cut down on tests and exams have once again sparked debate among Singaporeans. This is similar to the shift in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) banding system for grades that is slated to be introduced in 2021.

For the latest changes, the main aims outlined were to free up more time in schools to strengthen holistic development, self-discovery and engaged learning. It also added that schools would use “qualitative descriptors” to evaluate students’ learning process.

However, I believe that a few aspects of these new policies should be refined and clarified before moving forward.

First, a clear definition of what “qualitative descriptors” would be is essential.

There are parents who are known for their active involvement and participation in their children’s school life, and this could help in addressing the unease that some of them have with the changes.

Next, with the removal of class positions, level positions and overall marks from report books, parents or even the students themselves will no longer be able to determine where they stand in their class and cohort.

This could lead to a decrease in motivation, because students who put in extra efforts to do well in their studies will not be able to see how much they have improved or how good their performance is relative to the class and the year’s cohort.

How will these students be otherwise motivated?

Lastly, while changes have been made largely at the primary and secondary level, it is important that the entire system is reviewed to ensure a smooth and comfortable transition through the various stages of education. Otherwise, there may be a large gap between the learning outcomes of the primary and secondary schools, and the requirements of junior colleges and polytechnics.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung already said last Friday (Sept 28) that there will be a separate review for junior colleges.

Hopefully, the syllabus of primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions will be closely linked, to gradually increase the expectations from students along their journey of learning.

The changes made by the MOE have the power to alter the system significantly. Parents, students, and educators will have to work hand-in-hand towards a more comprehensive and, hopefully, enjoyable learning experience for students, and set up a good framework for future generations to follow.

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