Monday, 19 November 2012

PSLE not the be-all and end-all: PM

By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2012

WITH six days to go to the release of PSLE results, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on parents not to see the national examination as "the be-all and end-all" for their children.

He assured them that even if their children did not get into the secondary school they wanted, there were still many other good schools they could go to.

"We offer many pathways to success. We make every school a good school...

"If you prove yourself later, there are opportunities to move up," he told pupils, parents and teachers at the 30th anniversary dinner of Townsville Primary School in his Teck Ghee ward.

In both his speeches in Mandarin and English, he stressed that Singapore had developed a good education system, but acknowledged that the pressure on students was sometimes greater than desired, especially during key examinations like the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) for 12-year-olds.

"We have to find the right balance," he said. "We don't want to have excessive pressure. Where there is, we have made adjustments, toned it down.

"But we must not compromise our strengths in developing our children and in preparing (them) for the world, which is going to be very competitive, and for (their) jobs, which will not be easy."

With parents and MPs criticising the PSLE in recent months for being too high-stakes, Mr Lee said it was being reviewed as part of an overall relook of the education system, but the review will take time as it involves complex issues. He also advised parents to encourage their children, not to pressure them too much and let them learn at their own pace.

He added: "Parents have to know the PSLE is just one examination for their kids - important, yes, but not the only exam.

"If you do well, that's good, but you're not on an escalator. If you did not do quite as well as you expected, it's a disappointment. But there are other chances in life. Take them. There are other chances in school. Work for it."

Speaking in Mandarin, he recalled anxious parents turning up at his Meet-the-People Sessions in the hope that he could appeal on their behalf to brand-name schools, for a place for their children. But their desired schools have limited places too, he said.

Earlier, he spent time looking at artworks by pupils of Townsville Primary which drew inspiration from French impressionist Claude Monet, Singaporean pioneer artist Liu Kang and others. The artworks were the fruit of the school's art programme, which spans all six years of pupils' education.

He praised the school for its well-rounded education with a niche in the arts and its strong emphasis on teaching values.

The Government provides primary schools with modern facilities, upgrades them regularly and gives teachers and school leaders the resources and autonomy to do their jobs.

Townsville Primary's success is also due to its dedicated teachers, a strong parent support group and supportive alumni, he said.

Housewife Sandy Lee, 40, said she enrolled her son Zong Wei, 12, in Townsville as she felt that the principal and teachers cared for the pupils. She is also not too worried about her son's PSLE results.

She said: "I don't want to pressure him too much, as long as he can get into a secondary school."

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