Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Picking a secondary school under the new PSLE scoring system

SINGAPORE – Come results time next year, children who took their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will no longer see a T-score figure on their slips. Instead, they will be scored using eight bands known as Achievement Levels (AL).

AL 1 will be the best level and AL 8 will be the lowest. The pupil’s PSLE score – from a possible best of four to 32 – will be the sum of his or her four subject scores.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education (MOE) released some indicative secondary school entry scores by school types, based on last year’s Primary 6 data.

These score ranges are meant to provide parents and children with a broad sense of secondary schools’ cut-off points, and help gauge which schools the pupils can realistically qualify for.

The indicative AL cut-offs for individual secondary schools will be released in the first half of next year, based on the results and school choices of this year’s PSLE cohort.

To help contextualise the end-of-school examination results for this year’s Primary 5 pupils, they will receive their results in the new AL format this year, instead of grades A* to E.

Indicative scores for types of schools and courses

Schools fall broadly into three categories: government and government-aided, autonomous, and independent.

There are 135 government and government-aided schools, 28 of which are autonomous schools, like Crescent Girls’ School and Victoria School.

There are eight independent schools, including Raffles Institution, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and Hwa Chong Institution.

The indicative cut-off point range for the Express (Integrated Programme) course at independent schools is six to eight, and seven to nine at autonomous schools.

A score ranging from eight to 10 may be required for the Express (O level) track at independent schools.

For government and government-aided schools, the cut-off point ranges from eight to 22 for the Express (O level) track, 22 to 25 for Normal (Academic) and 26 to 30 for Normal (Technical).

The cut-off score range for Express (O level) at autonomous schools is eight to 16. For N(A) and N(T) courses, the cut-off points range from 22 to 25 and 26 to 29 respectively.

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How MOE derived the indicative scores

The ministry first simulated each pupil’s individual subject score in AL terms, based on his or her raw subject scores.

Then, it added the AL scores for each PSLE subject to form a pupil’s total score.

Using these simulated PSLE scores and pupils’ school choices, MOE simulated their posting outcomes based on the new Secondary 1 posting system and tie-breakers such as citizenship and order of school choices.

Then, the indicative AL cut-off point for each school was determined by the PSLE score of the last student admitted.

Finally, based on the score of the last student admitted, MOE took the lowest and the highest indicative AL cut-off points of schools within each school type (government and government-aided, autonomous, and independent) to obtain the range of points.

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Posting outcomes and tie-breakers in new system

With less differentiation in scores as compared with the T-score system, there will be some changes to the posting system and how ties will be broken if pupils have the same score.

If two pupils applying to a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school have the same PSLE score, the one with better Higher Chinese grades will be allocated a place ahead of the other pupil.

Under the old system, pupils who take Higher Chinese get bonus points – ranging from one to three depending on their grade – when applying to SAP schools.

The next level of tie-breaker is citizenship status, where Singapore citizens get priority, followed by permanent residents and then international students. This is unchanged from the old system.

The choice order of schools will also play a more significant role than it used to. With the AL system, a pupil who indicates a school as his or her first choice will now get a place ahead of someone else with the same score but indicates it as a second or third choice.

Previously with the T-score system, which had more differentiation between pupils, the one with the higher unrounded T-score aggregate would be admitted first.

If there is still a tie-breaker after the above stages, computerised balloting will be done. This remains unchanged from the old system.

Final batch of pupils under the old system

The T-score system still applies for pupils in Primary 6 this year who are entering secondary school next year.

Pupils are ranked according to detailed aggregate PSLE scores that extend to decimal points. The No. 1 pupil is posted to the school at the top of his list of six choices.

Likewise the second pupil and so on, until there are no more vacancies in the school.

The pupil who fails to get his top choice will be posted to the next school on his list. If that school is also full, he will be sent to his third-choice school and so on.

There are also tie-breakers in place. For example, where there are two or more pupils with the same rounded aggregate score vying for the last place in a school, they will be posted based on their citizenship.

If there is still a tie, between two Singaporeans for example, the one with the higher unrounded aggregate score will be posted to the school first.

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Attending secondary school open houses in a pandemic

Open houses can be a good way for prospective students and their parents to find out more about the culture, facilities and extra-curricular activities a secondary school has to offer.

This year, more than 120 secondary schools will also be conducting their open houses virtually to minimise intermingling and the risk of infection amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some activities and programmes include virtual tours led by students, live question-andanswer sessions on social media platforms as well as sharing of videos featuring testimonies from parents and alumni members.

Northbrooks Secondary School, for instance, created an interactive e-tour of the school to provide prospective students and their parents an “immersive and authentic” campus experience, with 360-degree views of various facilities.

Seven Northbrooks Secondary staff and 15 students were involved in organising the virtual open house. The students took charge of producing the videos in the e-tour, where they introduced various school facilities and shared their school experiences.

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