Sat, Apr 24, 2010
The Straits Times
Do it quickly

THREE of my grandchildren who took their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) performed superbly in every subject bar Chinese, which devalued their performance and cost two of them a place in a top secondary school.

The one who was lucky got into the school of his choice only after appealing. He had scored A-stars in English, Maths and Science but managed only a B in Chinese.

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» Mother tongue weighting in PSLE could be cut

Despite devoting most of his time to studying Chinese, it was this language which dragged his aggregate score down to 240 - and into the bottom classes of secondary school. Reason: the classes were divided according to PSLE scores.

By Secondary 3, he had worked his way back to the top classes. But it was the same story in his GCE O levels. He aced all his subjects bar Chinese in which he got a C. In junior college now, he is performing well in every subject but this time, his mother tongue may pose an even greater threat to his academic future. He failed H1 Chinese and the school advised him to retake the exam or compromise his scholarship applications.

Lose out on scholarships because of Chinese? If that happens, my grandson may be forced to fulfil his academic dream overseas. And with that, Singapore will lose another bright spark to a foreign country.

I am certain that thousands of students have suffered the same fate as my three grandchildren since the bilingual policy was introduced almost 40 years ago.

I worry because I have five other grandchildren who must take the PSLE. Our examination system should recognise a pupil's strengths, not penalise his weaknesses. The fairer weighting for a PSLE aggregate score is to calculate it based on a pupil's best three subjects. He should be required to only pass the fourth compulsory subject.

The Government should implement the new weighting immediately and not let another generation be penalised.

Chong Geok Kheng (Madam)

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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