Forum Letter Replies

August 24, 2019

MTL exemption principles remain unchanged with new PSLE scoring

We refer to recent forum letters on the issue of Mother Tongue Language (MTL) exemption.

Students who are exempted from MTL will not have an MTL score reflected on their PSLE result slips. However, for the purpose of Secondary 1 posting together with other students who take four subjects, they will need to be assigned an MTL score. This is the case under both the T-score system and new AL system.

There is also no change in the basic approach in assigning MTL scores. As with the T-score system, the assigned MTL score in the AL system will take reference from MTL scores of peers with similar English, Mathematics and Science scores.

What is specific to the AL system is that we will assign an MTL score between AL 6 to 8, which is the score range for Foundation level subjects. This is because it is difficult to justify why a student who did not take any MTL examination at PSLE can receive a score above AL 6, especially when 95% of students take four subjects at PSLE – including many students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) who are taking Foundation MTL.

Notwithstanding, our simulation showed that the proportion of MTL-exempt students qualifying for Express course remains comparable under both scoring systems. Under the AL system, a student will qualify for Express stream if his four subject aggregate is 22 or below. An MTL score of AL 6 to 8 does not mean he is out of Express stream. Further, we are also phasing out streaming by 2024.

As for MTL-exempt students who wish to be enrolled to specific schools, over the past two years, MOE has expanded Direct School Admission (DSA) places. Schools have moved away from recognising general academic abilities during DSA admission, but recognise specific talents, including raw talents, in languages, mathematics, science, the arts or sports. So the doors of DSA have widened.

Ultimately, if we truly believe in moving away from an over-emphasis on academic grades, it is better to have a grading system that is fair and consistent, but exercise judgement in doing what is best and in recognising the abilities of the child.

Mr Sin Kim Ho
Divisional Director, Curriculum Planning & Development 1
Ministry of Education

Mr Yue Lip Sin
Chief Executive
Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board