Skip to main content



PSLE math paper: Are tough questions necessary? Or should parents stop complaining?

Last week, some parents said students were left in tears after they took a difficult Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mathematics paper. One mother was so upset she wrote a Facebook post to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

PSLE math paper: Are tough questions necessary? Or should parents stop complaining?

One reader said parents should “stop sweating the small stuff”. Others said the mental health of children should take precedence over grades.

Last week, some parents said students were left in tears after they took a difficult Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mathematics paper. One mother was so upset she wrote a Facebook post to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Wallace Wong argued in a commentary on Thursday (Oct 3) that the PSLE was, after all, an examination and some questions had to be challenging enough for even the best students. Some TODAY readers concurred that questions of varying difficulty were necessary, as that was the point of an examination. Others disagreed, asking why the authorities had to set tough questions to inflict “trauma” on students and dent their confidence.

Ask ourselves this simple question: What is the purpose of an examination? JACQUELINE HO 

I totally agree. Exam questions need to be differentiated, to ensure kids who learn at differing paces are given the right type of attention. NG KWOK HUA 

One person’s struggle cannot be used to conclude that the math exam was too tough. Educators who have been monitoring the math questions over the years are better at analysing the difficulty of the exam. WILLIAM SAM 

PSLE marks will eventually be moderated. So having an easy paper may not be a good thing. Parents need to see the big picture and stop sweating the small stuff. SUSAN KHOO 

Our children are being overprotected. VG TABLE RIAN

Every year, it is the parents who find certain questions difficult. Well, that is the point of an exam: To distinguish the good from the not-so-good. Unless your child cannot do 80 per cent of the questions, do not blame the exam. RENA WONG 

What will happen in future when they go out to work and encounter challenges? Sit at a corner and cry, and avoid the challenges? Or innovate and think of ways to work around the issue? Even if it means writing only one or two equations without getting an answer, at least the students read and tried. Parents have to chill out and lower their expectations a little, and understand that the PSLE is not the end of a child's education. It is one of many tests in life a child will go through. LEONARD TAN

I wonder if the stress is from the exam or the expectations of parents. CHOO HOE KEAT 

Kids nowadays cannot take failure at all. Is the inability to do a question or two so bad? Or maybe I should say it is the parents who cannot take failure. This is the sad state of education in Singapore. CLARENCE CHEE 

The job of a parent is not to remove obstacles in their children’s lives. HUICHING HIA 

My son took the paper. When he got home that day, I asked him how it was. His reply was that it was tougher than the preliminary paper and PSLE papers of past years that his teacher gave him and his schoolmates for practice. So I asked whether he answered all the questions. He said yes. After reading about the complaint to Mr Ong Ye Kung, I asked him again. He said he did not get it at first, but realised later how he could get the answer. If he got it wrong, he figured many would also get it wrong. So, no sweat. He is from a neighbourhood school. SOFIAH PATAIL 

An exam should not be too hard. It kills the confidence of the kids. Self-confidence is an important attribute that should not be ignored. A difficult paper will affect the kids’ emotional well-being for the next paper. I also find a great difference between our culture and that of the Americans. Americans are full of confidence because the environment makes them feel that they can do it, rather than “you are not good enough”. That is what a difficult paper can do to you. SEOK NG 

Why do we need to set questions that cause such trauma? I remember, one year, a bunch of Primary 6 kids broke down in tears during the exam. TREVOR TAN 

There is no need to set such high standards for a 12-year-old kid. DANIEL LIM 

To those who brag about how easy PSLE questions are, why don’t you all visit adolescent psychiatric wards such as those at the Institute of Mental Health and Singapore General Hospital to see for yourself how many of these students suffer from depression — some are suicidal — due to pressure from parents over academic achievements? Keep crafting as many difficult questions as you want, but our children’s mental health is more important than their grades. AFIAH SAYYAD

These comments were first posted to TODAY’s Facebook page. They have been edited for clarity, accuracy and length.

Related topics

PSLE examination parent education

Read more of the latest in




Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.