A number of parents, whose children failed to make it into St Hilda Primary’s Higher Chinese programme in Pri 2, have written in to Mothership.sg and The Straits Times, to lament about their fate, after scoring 97 marks for a Pri 1 Chinese continual assessment exam did not help them qualify for the course.
The school’s head of department for Chinese Language, has explained that this was due to the fact that those students did not make it to the top 25% in terms of academic achievement in their cohort.
Results first, interest second
While Chinese/ Higher Chinese should have been a subject that any able student can take up based on his/her ability, as per MTL reforms some years ago, where Higher Chinese and Chinese B (a lower-ability course) eligibilities have been relaxed, it seems that schools, while exercising autonomy given by the MOE, choose – understandably – to still put overall academic achievement first, sometimes disregarding a child’s capabilities in individual subjects.
While MOE can brag about relaxing and reforming the system to focus less on results, the sentiment on the ground, in the workplace, and as a result, in the schools, are still stuck in a results-based paradigm.
The restriction on HIgher Chinese is particularly peculiar because with the rise of China, PAP ministers have been urging Singaporeans to learn more Chinese and use more Mandarin.
Parents criticise what they see as lip service
“My child is interested in Chinese, that’s why I was disappointed that despite her doing well, she was not selected to study Higher Chinese,” she said. “(The Education Ministry) urging young people to follow their interests and aspirations just sounds hollow,” said a mother who felt the school did not do her child’s interest any service.
A father felt such practices contradict what our PAP Ministers and MPs have been saying about not ‘chasing the last mark.’
“The ministers had been talking about how we need to move away from differentiating students more finely than necessary,” he said.
“Changes are being made to the PSLE so that pupils focus on their own learning and not on competing with their peers. Surely, such practices go against this thinking?”
Streaming and tuition raised again
The father also added that he felt streaming pupils in Primary 1 was “way too early” and it would be better for schools to allow all children to take up Higher Chinese from Pri 1, as is the practice in the 15 Special Assistance Plan (SAP) primary schools.
In all SAP primary schools, schools that promote Chinese language and culture, children take Higher Chinese from Pri 1. They decide whether to continue to Pri 6 at the end of Pri 4.
Another parent, worried for her child not being able to make it for the Higher Chinese course, said, “These are the kinds of practices that push parents to send their kids for high-end tuition that costs $1,000 a month.”