4 October was just another day for many regular Singaporeans. But for a select group of parents, it was a day of celebration. Like Deepavali with dancing and prayers, but happier.
Yes, it was the end of the PSLE, the Primary School Leaving Examination. (Not that you need me to explain the acronym which is seared into the brains of every Singaporean child.)
At 10am on 4 October, there were simultaneous shrieks of joy and congratulations across the island, many pats on the back and “We made it!” Everywhere, parents were rejoicing in their newfound freedom. The kids were probably still somewhere in school, making their way home :)
As part of a broader shift in emphasis from academic scores to holistic education, the Ministry of Education will be tweaking the PSLE scoring to moderate the comparisons between student scores, due to take effect in 2021. The teaching in classrooms is also shifting towards applied learning, in developing curiosity in our children. The subject options have also been widened, with seven new applied learning ‘O’ level subjects including mobile robotics, drama as well as exercise and sports science.
Admittedly, our education system has its stresses and as we try to prepare our students for the future, and at the same time, provide the space and support to nurture their talents. More and more, we have been seeing students taking the less travelled paths and doing well.
Just this month, the newspapers picked up on Max Ng, the newly promoted chef de cuisine at Momofuku Ko in New York. For the uninitiated, the chef de cuisine is the master chef, in charge of every other chef in the kitchen. And the Momofuku Mo kitchen just happens to be one of the top in New York, with 2 Michelin stars under its belt. There’s also Manfred Lim, aka Myrne, a Singaporean DJ who has played to thousands at major music festivals, including the recent Ultra Singapore event. Just 21 years of age, Manfred is juggling his school commitments at the Singapore Management University while pursuing his passion.
Recognising the diverse talents of many of our youths, the aptitude-based admissions at polytechnics and universities have been expanded to allow more students to pursue courses which they are passionate about.
My favourite story this month is about David Hoe, who despite doing poorly in his PSLE, overcame his personal adversity to pursue an Economics degree at the National University of Singapore. With the help of teachers and church friends, David pulled his socks up, aced the N levels and then repeated Sec 3 and 4 in the Express stream, to make it to Catholic Junior College. Every step of the process was stressful and possible only through hard work. Today, David has a teaching scholarship from the Ministry of Education. Has also set up a mentoring programme between NUS students and New Town Secondary School and ran 250km in the Gobi Desert to raise funds for charity.
Sometime in November, there will be another day of celebration. No, not the release of the examination results. Hundreds of teachers drafted to mark countless examination scripts will lurch out of well-worn seats for a short gasp of sanity in December. Before it starts again in January.