Founder Focus: New PSLE Banding System founder and former educator, Isabelle Loo, shares her thoughts on Singapore’s new PSLE banding system that is set to start on 2021.

There is much clamour in Singapore’s education scene with the new and upcoming Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) banding system. Some are rooting for it, some are quite hesitant with it.

But what are the real deal of this new ruling? founder and former educator, Isabelle Loo, shares an in-depth explanation about the new PSLE banding system in an interview with The New Age Parents below:

The New Age Parents: When will this new banding system take place (birth year of the students who will be affected by this new system)?

Isabelle Loo: The new banding system will take effect for year 2016 batch of Primary 1 students. Hence, the first year the P6 banding will take effect is 5 years later, in the year 2021.

NAP: How does the new PSLE new banding system affect my child? Please share 3-4 insights into our education system and what it means for parents with the new banding system.

IL: The current PSLE system uses the T-score for each subject, before they are being added to give the child the aggregate PSLE score. The T-score formula for any subject is (Child’s Real Score minus Average score of the P6 cohort)/standard deviation

In other words, how well your child fares in a subject is relative to how well he does compared to the P6 student population of that year. Hence, you can have an objective exam paper that a child does well. However, if many P6 students also do equally well, he may end up with a borderline pass grade, because under the current formula, the scores (Child’s Score minus Average score of the P6 cohort) only gives him a negligible headway above the crowd.

In the new banding system, if he gets a score, he is recognised for that score, alone. There is no comparison involved. So if he gets 70, he is recognised at having 70. This is regardless if everyone else also have 70 marks. Everyone is recognised for his absolute achievement, not the relative achievement. This is great news because the assessment works the way it should be, assessing the child’s understanding of the subject, and not how well he does compared to his peers.

NAP:  My child’s interest keeps changing all the time. Is this normal? What can I do to help and support their ever-changing interests?

A child is discovering about himself as he grows. With different exposures and new experiences, he discovers and rediscovers what he really likes. You should encourage the child to explore different genres of activities, after Prof. Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Prof. Gardner believes that everyone is talented, and there are 8 areas of intelligences that a person may have a few of. They are logical, linguistic, naturalistic, kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical and visual-spatial.

By exposing your child early in life with activities in a wide range of genres, he will be able to discover what he is good at, and what he really likes. I would encourage exposing the child as much as possible before the age of 11, before the school work gets too heavy. The child’s brain will develop faster with the stimulation he is getting too. Children who know what they want in life by 12 years old are usually the ones exposed to different experience at a young age.

NAP: My child’s interest is very niche and uncommon. Should I steer him towards a more common interest, or something that has more ‘prestigious’ like law or medicine?

There is a future for all interests, may it be a job or starting a business in that niche. Rather than deciding the skills a child should develop towards a career, it should be the other way round. Be child-centric – start with the child and his interest, and develop a career or a business around it.

NAP: Besides academic abilities, what other traits or strengths can I identify in my child that will be useful during their developmental years?  

Every child will have his own talents and strengths (Prof. Gardner called it ‘intelligences’) and we need only expose the child to many genres of experiences to grow these talents.

It is important, however, that parents need to guide our children that it is normal for other people to be different from them because others’ intelligences may lie in different domains. By working together with people of different intelligences with an open mind, the final work is often better than doing it alone. This will allow the child to see a person objectively and accepts as him as he is.

As for traits, they can be double-edged swords, so we need to let the child be aware of the pitfalls of their traits. For example, a determined person can be a stubborn person. A fast worker may be an impatient person. A careful child may be handicapped in venturing new experiences. A child with high self-esteem may be easily hurt in life’s many falls. We need to teach the child how to manage emotions for the traits they have.

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