21 November 2012

Anonymous Academic Excellence

The Ministry of Education and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board will no longer disclose the names of the top students at the Primary School Leaving Examinations and the O level examinations.

The move was taken in line with the importance of recognising students for their holistic development and all-round excellence, and to balance the over-emphasis on academic results.

Education outcomes
The Ministry will encourage the media to highlight the performances of students from a variety of schools who have done well not only in the exams but also in other aspects as well.

Inasmuch as the PSLE is an exam, its focus is, and has to be, academic achievement.  What is wrong with highlighting students' performance at the PSLE?

Most parents consider academic achievement to be a key part of their children's formal education.

Pressure
The Ministry of Education may be trying to appease some parents who are concerned about the stress of the PSLE on their children.

As mentioned in a previous article [here], PSLE results determine whether the students proceed onto Express or Normal Stream studies in secondary school and which schools the students are posted to (other than those students who manage to circumvent it via the Direct Admission Scheme).  Because of this, the PSLE is stressful to some students and (especially) their parents.

But students (and their parents) who are stressed by this aspect of the PSLE are not the same students who are vying for top honours at the PSLE.  For this group of students, the reality is that there is only one top student (by the way, having a top student for each ethnic group is wrong and perpetuates racial distinction and divide).  There is little stress because a student can only do his best, and whether anyone else achieves a higher score is beyond his control.

Of course there will always be some students (and especially their parents) who imagine that they are the best when they are not.  We can only feel sorry for them (i.e., the students, not the parents who should know better).

What is the PSLE anyway?
Notwithstanding the above, while information about the top student at the PSLE (or even the O levels or A levels) has some news value, albeit transient, one must wonder if such achievement really matters to anyone other than that student and his or her family.  Life goes on, and there are new challenges to be met soon.  Students writing their O level exams will tell you that their achievements at the PSLE four years earlier pale in comparison in scale and significance.

This is true in other areas of achievement as well.  At the end of the day, how much does it matter that we are the number one in Singapore or in the world for this or that?  Not very much, if we are honest with ourselves.  What matters is that we truly did our best.  (Thus, importing foreign atheletes to win medals at international sports competitions means little to most of us, other than to some national sports associations; see [here] and [here].)

Anonymous excellence and anonymous performance
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education said it would discontinue disclosing school ranking.

Then, it said that every school is a good school.

Now, it will not disclose the name of the top student.

The Ministry seems to be moving toward anonymous excellence and anonymous performance, back to where we were two decades ago.

But that is not how the real world works.  Everything above the median is good, which itself may be differentiated into good, better and best.  Everything below the median is, to put it politely, not good enough.  As a society, we improve and progress when the laggards raise their standards.  But how do we do that if, instead of being told where we stand, we are told that every school is a good school?

Will the Government stop disclosing the names of the President's Scholars next?

2 comments:

  1. Dear Sir/Madam,

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  2. Dear Sir/Madam,

    On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

    The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

    By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

    Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

    If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL: http://singaporememory.simulation.com.sg/Public/Pledge.

    You may find out more about this initiative at http://www.iremember.sg/?page_id=2822
    We are looking forward to your contribution.


    Hetal Mandalia|Social Media Analyst|Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd
    583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884), Singapore
    o: +65 61006747 |f: +65 62341956 |w:www.simulation.com.sg

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