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Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)

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Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is the first standardised examination a student in Singapore has to go through and is often regarded as the make-or-break hurdle that will determine the future of a child.

Students will have to undergo the examination near the end of their sixth year in primary school and the score will be used for secondary admission. A good PSLE score is required to secure enrolment in a good secondary school. The examination also tests students’ proficiency in the English language, their respective mother tongue languages, such as Chinese, Malay, Tamil and Hindu, mathematics and science. PSLE score will also determine whether a student enters the “Special”, “Express” or “Normal” stream in secondary school.

Since 2007, with the reform of the previous streaming system, students are no longer categorised into EM1 (higher), EM2 (standard and EM3 (foundation) classes. Instead, after the subject-based streaming exercise at the end of primary four, students will be given the options to take different subjects at the standard or foundational levels based on their proficiency. Regardless of what level they take, they will have to sit for the PSLE paper for the subjects, although foundational level subjects will carry less weight. At the end of primary five, the school will make the final decision on the student’s subject combinations.

The rationale of taking subjects at foundational level is to enable a struggling student to learn at a slower pace without hindering the rest of the class. In an ideal scenario, the students will be able to learn at a comfortable pace and become as proficient as their peers. Since foundational level subjects only covers 75% of the standard curriculum, students will be at a significant disadvantage during PSLE.

There is a one year gap from the subject-based streaming to the finalisation of subject combination for students to find their way back to the standard level. This can be achieve if the student receive sufficient attention and is provided with a personalised study plan, both of which are unlikely to be fulfilled given the limited resources in schools.