The New Secondary Posting Exercise: What You Should Know

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is a rite of passage for children studying in Singapore. Although the PSLE has undergone several changes in the past, the nerves and worry that afflict parents, teachers and students alike have remained largely the same.

Yet, should this be the case? This is one of the key questions — among other concerns revolving around an overemphasis on grades at the expense of holistic education — that have prompted the Ministry of Education (MOE) to redesign the PSLE scoring system and, accordingly, the secondary school posting exercise.

Here’s what you should know from 2021:

  • PSLE results are traditionally released in late November. The confirmed date will be released one week beforehand.

  • Students may choose to return to their schools to collect the results or view them online (via the SEAB website).
  • Each of the four subjects — English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science — will be given an Achievement Level (AL) of 1-8, 1 being the highest grade possible.

  • The PSLE score is the sum of the four ALs. Hence, the best achievable at the PSLE would be 4. The lower the total AL, the more options the student has when considering secondary schools.
  • Students will be posted to a secondary school, based on their AL from 2021 and personal school choice ranking.

  • There will be cut-off points to enter a school. Schools with an affiliated primary school will have two sets of cut-off points: one for affiliated students and one for non-affiliated students.
  • The AL cut-off point range for each school will only be released in early 2021. However, MOE has shared the estimated cut-off points for each school category — government or government-aided, autonomous and independent schools. They are as follows:

How does the new system differ from the previous one?

Although the new system featuring ALs is similar to the old system in principle, the crucial difference lies in the execution. At first glance, the introduction of ALs does not seem to represent a groundbreaking shift in Singapore’s education system.

However, it joins subject-based banding* as a signal of MOE’s move towards creating more diverse and passion-focussed schools. The key effect of ALs is that students are more broadly differentiated. Instead of the 200+ scores that a student can potentially have, today’s primary school graduates can only have one of 32 ALs.

What does this mean for your child?

For the student, this could mean less comparison between themselves and their peers. After all, there is not much to compare when a friend scores the exact same number as you — a more statistically likely scenario under the new scoring system, compared to the old one.

Furthermore, the broadened differentiation also means that more schools across the three school categories potentially accept a larger number of students. In other words, students are now eligible for and can choose from a wider pool of schools.

Keeping this in mind, it becomes more beneficial for students to consider aspects of any given secondary school choice other than its cut-off point. When multiple schools have the same cut-off point, the students should feel more free to select their preferred one based on things like school niche, CCAs, culture and more.

*By 2024, the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams will be replaced by subject-based banding (SBB), which empowers students to dive more deeply into the subjects they are more passionate about.

Find out more about SBB here (link to: tant-move-to-maximise-12227146).