Sunday 23 September 2012

Scrapping PSLE not the solution: Lawrence Wong

How S'poreans define success must change, he tells poly students
By Stacey Chia and Kezia Toh, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2012

THE stress that comes with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is something that needs to be looked at, but scrapping the exam or tweaking the assessment criteria may not be the solution, said Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong.

Solving the problem requires a mindset change among Singaporeans on how success is defined, he said yesterday.

Mr Wong, who responded to questions raised by polytechnic students at a forum, is the first office-holder from the Education Ministry to weigh in on the debate on whether the high-stake exam should be scrapped.

While there has been a diversity of views on the issue, most agreed that there must be some way to assess a pupil's ability based on merit, he noted. "So we have not abolished the system of meritocracy - we believe in that. We want a fair system that is based on individual merit, in which we decide how a person should progress on to the next level of education.

"I think most people agree with that - so the question is, what is the measure?" he told some 300 polytechnic students at the closing ceremony of the annual Polytechnic Forum.

The forum serves as a platform for students to gain a deeper understanding of national issues through discussions and group work.

Yesterday, a student suggested including art, music and presentation skills as part of the assessment criteria for PSLE, while another raised the possibility of having assessments throughout the year.

But Mr Wong pointed out that some may argue that these ideas could end up creating more stress for young children.

For real change to take place, Singaporeans have to define success more broadly, he said. "The answer is that there is no silver bullet, no magic solution. And I think we have to think about some of the concerns that have been raised about PSLE."

At the dialogue, Mr Wong also tackled other issues brought up by students, which ranged from national service exemption to polytechnic transport concessions.

Can NS wait, I have talent to pursue?
By Nicholas Yeam & Nathniel Fetalvero, The New Paper, 26 Sep 2012

EXEMPT sportsmen from national service (NS).

And artists too.

This was among suggestions mooted by some of the 300 student representatives from the five polytechnics gathered on Friday evening for the closing ceremony of Polytechnic Forum 2012.

Said one student at the forum: "In Singapore, men have to do NS. Sometimes, this affects an athlete's ability to perform to his full potential because he's tied down by NS.

"I'm not saying that we take it away completely. Just exempt these talented athletes for that period to allow them to train because that is a critical age where an athlete is at his prime."

Opinions were varied, with another student suggesting that men of exceptional talent in arts be exempt from NS as well.


Guest of Honour Lawrence Wong, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) said that allowing exemptions could potentially cause others who were not entitled to such privileges to be unhappy.

He said: "The majority are training hard to defend Singapore. If some individuals are allowed some waiver of that training because of some exceptional talent that they have, do you think that's fair?"

Nigel Koh, a 19-year-old accounting and finance student at Temasek Polytechnic managed to draw laughter from the crowd.

He suggested women do NS with their male counterparts.

Presenting one of the more radical ideas of the evening, Nigel said: "For guys, NS is joining the army. For women, NS is giving birth.

"If they don't want to go to the army, then they should be doing their part and contributing to the growth of our population."

One student asked at the forum: "If the Government thinks that, at the age of 18, we're old enough and ready to fight for our country and even die for our country, then why should we wait until we're 21 to have the right to vote?"

Mr Wong said: "The age for enlistment and the age for voting had been decided separately, under different conditions."

Nigel later said NS is a stage in life where boys become men and that he was looking forward to it.

Arnold Aik, a 17-year-old real estate business student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, believed that despite the rest of his peers not liking the idea of NS, it was still necessary.

He said: "There are about 300 students at this forum, all talented in different areas. If all of us are exempted from NS, who's going to fight for our country? "

When The New Paper spoke to several students after the forum, it appeared that many male students who had yet to enlist were willing to serve the country.

Inequality in transport fares

Some of the other topics raised included scrapping of the Primary School Leaving Examination and the developing of an arts-based education in Singapore.

Students also spoke about the inequality in polytechnic transport fares.

Biomedical engineering student Oh Yih Shuan, 19, asked the minister: "Compared to foreign students, I believe that PRs (permanent residents) do not have as many benefits" and that foreign students could get scholarships easily.

Mr Wong replied: "Our main focus is on Singaporeans, followed by PRs, and finally foreign students" stating that the "Government places priority on Singaporeans...We also provide benefits and subsidies for our permanent residents, followed by our foreign talent who also contribute to our society".

Students spent four days in intensive discussions at a residential programme in Desaru, Malaysia, prior to the forum.

They pitched potential solutions to society's challenges at the forum held at the Temasek Convention Centre at Temasek Polytechnic.

Asked about the opportunity to help shape the country, Jared Tan, 19, a tourism and resort management student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said: "Why not? I'd definitely do what I can as an individual."

No comments:

Post a Comment