In Singapore’s competitive academic system, grades are more than an assessment of learning ability. It has evolved into a tool that measures intelligence, capability, and even self-worth. The PSLE three-digit aggregate is often viewed as a predeterminer of future success or failure, and this puts undue pressure on 12-year-olds who may not have the emotional ability to manage the immense stress. The truth is that the PSLE score does not determine the child’s future. A high score doesn’t mean they will be a doctor or lawyer, and a low score doesn’t mean they will not be able to do well in the future.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has recognized the importance of pushing for fewer examinations among students, and recent changes to the examination schedules in Primary and Secondary schools are lauded as a step in the right direction. However, examinations are still crucial to keep track of academic progress of students, and it is the mentality towards the grades that need to change. When a child scores below average for an exam, it is not an indicator of their potential. Rather, it should be viewed as a progress gauge, with room for growth and improvement. As much as a good score will open doors for the student, an average or below average score does not doom the child to mediocrity for life.
Here are some quotes shared by celebrities about how their PSLE scores affected them:
Jamie Yeo, Radio deejay | PSLE score: 263
“This is my PSLE score. Sure, I might have done well but many hours of play were sacrificed for it. The score and the secondary school I went to didn’t really matter. I had to move to America at the end of the Sec 1 year and that’s where my real education began. When I came back to Singapore at age 17, I couldn’t get into university here as my American high school diploma was not recognized, so I happily went to a Polytechnic and did Mass Communication. And now, I could not be more grateful for the education I received. There is life beyond grades!”
Andie Chen, Actor | PSLE score: 219
“I remember hiding in my room crying for days and having my first round of depression after I got my PSLE results. 219. These numbers confirm it, I am a useless mediocre human being that will never amount to anything. These 3 numbers etched that conclusion into my mind for years. Looking back, those numbers meant nothing, so why are we so focused on it?”
Royston Tan, filmmaker | PSLE score: 168
“When I was in primary school, my teacher used to tell me that if I don’t excel in my studies, I will be a nobody. She said that there is no future in pursuing the arts, unless if I want to paint HDBs in the future. However, I believe that learning is not confined to the classroom. It is a lifelong process. It does not mean that studying is not important. You just have to give your best in whatever you do and believe that the dots will connect in the future.”
These people show us that the road to success does not start and end with academic excellence. The inculcation of values such as integrity and perseverance, life skills such as teamwork and communication, all work together to ensure the child’s future ahead is paved with opportunities. Above all, talent and passion should be encouraged and developed for every child. There can be brilliance in every field, and as important as a good education is, it is not the only path to success.