RECAP: CNA's "Regardless of Grades" Documentary

A CNA documentary on Singapore's obsession with grades and the origins of the PSLE

| 2024-04-08 | 4 min read

regardless of grades image

Editor's note: We also did another recap on CNA's interview with PSLE Chief Marker on how to score in the exam. Watch it here.

Recently, Channel NewsAsia released a new addition to its award-winning "Regardless of" series, focusing on a topic close to our hearts, academic grades.

"Regardless of Grades", a documentary with a run time of about 47 minutes, delves into Singapore's obsession with grades and the origins of the PSLE.

While it can be accessed via CNA's official YouTube Channel, our team has summarised the key points of the documentary, especially relevant if you are a parent of a primary school child.

Let's dive in!

regardless of grades cover

A Social Experiment Uncovering Students' Perspective on PSLE

source of stress chart

In order of category, parents rank top as the biggest source of stress, with friends and teachers coming in next, and last by not least, self. We should also consider that a good amount of stressors under self seem to be parent-driven.

Nationwide Survey - What Does PSLE Success Mean to Parents?

why are psle scores important graph
  • This survey covers the Primary 5 and Primary 6 age group, and according to CNA, is the first one commissioned since the 2021 PSLE reforms by MOE.
  • Over 65% of Parents and 84% of Students are "stressed by PSLE".
  • Large majority of Parents (99% of respondents) believe in the importance of PSLE.

An Expert on PSLE Developments From 1970s to Present Day

psle developments over the years
  • The need for a greater equality of opportunity in terms of access for secondary schools is the original intention behind the PSLE.
  • The A* was introduced to signal greater differentiation/transparency, after parent feedback said that their children were not able to enter the schools of their preference despite scoring As.
  • The latest shift to "Achievement Level" or "AL" by the MOE is aimed at "a reduction in fine differentiation".

June Holidays in PSLE Year

a kid's schedule
boot camp
  • It's about 4 months until PSLE, and the June holidays are mostly dedicated to conditioning classes (extra lessons at school) and other academic activities.
  • A student attends a Mathematics bootcamp to address his careless mistakes.
  • Tuition, assessment books, home revision sessions pepper the typical PSLE taker's June Holidays.

Parents Share Their Perspective

parent interviews
  • Parents feel a sense of obligation from their perception of societal expectations, what their peers are doing, and fulfilling their duty as parents.
  • Children have varying views on PSLE and examinations - these views can differ based on environmental factors, family values, etc.
  • A mother shares an anecdote on how she's accepting of her child's own occupational ideals, but is firm on academics being the starting point.

Hear from the CEO of Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board

  • "The data has shown as high as close to 50% of students score 75 (or AL4)"
  • "What is important is for students to understand and master the skill set. (rather than drilling) "
  • Memorising or drilling exam papers will not help because once the question context shifts, students may not be able to tackle the questions.

Key Takeaways

This video has established the reasons behind Singaporeans' obsession with PSLE. While in recent years MOE has tried to shift the narrative, these changes will inevitable take time to take root.

So, how can parents make PSLE less stressful for kids today, and perhaps even themselves?

According to the documentary, there are two key points:

  1. Nag less, and provide more positive encouragement.
  2. Remember that while grades are important, they are not everything when it comes to your child's well-being.

We hope that this summary has been helpful - let us know what you think! Do stay in touch by subscribing to our email newsletter or join us in our WhatsApp community group.

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