During the December holidays, MOE passed a new ruling that secondary schools are not to take in transfer students with PSLE aggregate scores lower than their official cut-off point.
So what exactly does that mean?
Basically, students who did not make it into a school via the Secondary 1 posting exercise need not bother to appeal.
Even those who miss by 1 or 2 points, just too bad. The sorting process is going to be more cut-and-dried.
|Photo source: The Straits Times online|
As one principal shared with me, this was the best Christmas present ever.
It takes the onus off principals to have to make the very tough decision of letting one student in over another based on arbitrary criteria.
Although it seems like a move backwards towards unrelenting meritocracy, I can see the rationale behind this. Transparency, objectivity, stopping the unnecessary hopping, minimising principals having to justify to pushy parents why another student was offered the place instead of their child.
I remember during #1’s time, she missed by 2 points to get into the school of her 1st choice.
During the decision making process, she had studied the book, looked at the various cut-off points, weighed the pros and cons (distance/friends/CCAs/perceived image of the school) and convinced herself that it was the best choice.
Lo and behold, the cut-off point increased by 2 points and she did not make it in.
Experienced friends told me, “Don’t worry, go and appeal. Got chance.”
I made a trip down early in the morning and easily spotted the “Appeal Box” placed on a table at the entrance of the school, and it was already filled to the brim!
Feeling extremely daunted, I went ahead and asked for the appeal form as my daughter really wished to enter that school. We had to answer questions on her achievements and awards, and not surprisingly, we did not get a call.
#1 was admitted into the school of her 2nd choice. I felt it was an excellent school, but she always had the “what if” thought at the back of her mind.
With #2, her aggregate was lower than #1’s even though she had better overall grades.
This time, I was wiser.
The image of the burgeoning appeal box stuck in my mind. As my kids have hardly any awards, I decided to play it safe.
For her 1st choice, we shortlisted a few schools and finally chose a school with a cut-off point a few points below her aggregate.
She got in comfortably even though the cut-off point had increased.
With #3, I was very keen on her following in #2’s footsteps as I was impressed by the way her principal helmed the school. Full of heart and very student-centric. It was obvious that they put values above academic paper chase.
Even though her aggregate was barely scrapping the bottom, we decided to try our luck as the siblings were looking forward to being in the same secondary school.
Guess what? The cut-off point rose again and she missed it by 2 points.
This time, I was very disappointed. The hubs said, “Go and appeal. She missed by just 2 points. Say her sister is there too. Valid reason. And next time if they need, let’s go and help out.”
I stared at him. He thinks we are still living in the old days, kampung spirit and all.
The girls were devastated and I told them we would try to appeal.
Based on her sporting abilities, she was called in for the try-outs a few days before school started and got accepted immediately via the DSA vacancy with the understanding that she would participate in their niche sport and would not be allowed to transfer to another school for the duration of the 4 years.
So, what now, for #4?
With this new directive, I would have to be more careful in selecting the school of her 1st choice after the PSLE results are out. It would be prudent to give a 2-3 point buffer from the previous year’s cut-off point just in case it increases due to demand.
Well, that’s just me, being the ultra chill mum that I am.
However, I can already hear the buzz going on.
Last year’s batch of parents were literally caught off-guard. They will be sharing their war stories with the next batch of parents and we can expect the latter to take it up one notch.
Now that there is no more room for showcasing their childrens’ CCA credentials via appeals nor any arm twisting, what are they to do?
Probably put more pressure on their kids academically as the PSLE aggregate becomes more critical because even 1 point makes a difference whether the child can make it into their school of choice.
The DSA route would also be more fervently pursued since the appeal option has now been choked off.
For the sake of the children I hope that the DSA initiative would be scrapped soon as the impact has become contrary to what was intended, and that our new education minister would push through more details with regards to replacing the PSLE aggregate with grades, as promised by our PM 3 years ago.
I was tempted to do my homework and start asking the parents I see around my neighbourhood to recommend some good schools with values which align with mine, with a more modest cut-off point just in case.
But as I thought about it, I can see that with her abilities, #4 should be able to make it into #3’s school if she goes in with a fighting spirit and gives it her all this year.
I have confidence that she will rise to the occasion. Sometimes, our believe in them is the little extra that they need.
To fellow mums with P6s, we are all in this together! It is going to be a year of challenges, excitement, and joy of watching them set targets and strive to achieve them. Jia you!
Based on past experiences with my older 3 kids, here are 6 things I will do for #4 in her PSLE year.
Here are 6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child.
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