A Guide to the Changes to PSLE, O-Level and N-Level Examinations: All You Need to Know

MOE is in the midst of revamping Singapore’s education system in an effort to reduce the stress and pressure placed on children to achieve stellar results in school. There have been many major changes announced such as the changes to PSLE and the scrapping of O’ and N’ Levels. We have collated these changes in this guide with all you need to know to help support your child in this new education system.

From 2021: Changes to the PSLE scoring system 

(i) Wider scoring bands 

Rather than T-scores, P6 students will now be scored using 8 bands, which are also called Achievement Levels. Your child’s PSLE score will hence be a sum of his 4 subject scores (ranging from 4 to 32). 

The banding is as follows:

New PSLE Achievement Levels banding system. Taken from https://www.moe.gov.sg/microsites/psle/PSLE%20Scoring/psle-scoring.html

If your child received AL 1 (Achievement Level 1) for mathematics, for example, his subject score for mathematics will be 1. The sum of the subject scores for all 4 subjects will then replace the current T-score system.

(ii) Achievement Levels received are based on your child’s individual performance

The Achievement Level awarded to your child will no longer be based on his performance in relation to his peers. Instead, it will be based on his own level of achievement. As long as your child has met the learning outcomes required of the band, he will receive that band regardless of the scores his peers have received.

From 2021: Secondary 1 Posting

With the major revamp of the PSLE scoring system, there have been changes to the Secondary 1 posting system to accommodate it. Based on your child’s PSLE score, he will be placed into one of the 3 streams in secondary school. 

Scoring AL8 for English and/or mathematics would mean that your child will have to retake the PSLE or he can join the Northlight and Assumption Pathway specialised schools.

*Do take note that the streaming system in secondary schools will be fully abolished in 2024. Streaming will continue to take place from 2021 – 2023.

(i) Choice order of schools matters more in the new system

The Secondary 1 posting will still be based primarily on academic merit, but the choice order of schools plays a bigger role now. Your child will submit a list of 6 schools in his order of preference. If there are 2 children with the same PSLE score vying for the last place in the same school, tiebreakers will be used to determine which child will receive that place.

The tiebreakers are as follows:

  • Citizenship –– Singaporeans are given the highest priority, followed by Permanent Residents, then International Students.
  • Choice order of schools –– If your child indicated the school as a higher choice, priority will be given to him as compared to the other child who placed the school lower in his choice of schools. 
  • Computerised balloting 

(ii) Admission into SAP (Special Assistance Plan) schools

SAP schools emphasise the learning of both English and Chinese for their students, making them effectively bilingual institutions. HCL (Higher Chinese Language) students will receive an advantage where those with better HCL grades in PSLE will be allocated a place ahead of others with the same PSLE score.

Presently, there are 11 SAP schools for Secondary in Singapore.

From 2024: Abolishing streaming in secondary school

The 2024 Secondary 1 cohort (current Primary 2s in 2019) will be in a new subject-based banding system with the abolishment of the Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical Streaming in Schools. Students will be in subject classes based on their ability level, ranging from G1 to G3. All students in the 2024 Secondary 1 cohort will have a 4-year curriculum and take a common national examination in 2027 in Secondary 4, regardless of their PSLE score. Based on your child’s performance in PSLE, he will be offered subjects at different levels.

G3 level is comparable to the current Express Stream standard, G2 is comparable to the current Normal Academic standard and G1 is comparable to the current Normal Technical standard.

Doing well in certain subjects will allow your child to take those subjects at a higher level from Secondary 1.

Subject Banding System in Secondary Schools from 2024. Taken from https://www.schoolbag.sg/story/key-changes-to-education-system-with-fsbb

This new system allows your child to take his individual subjects at different levels based on his strengths and weaknesses. He will be able to take on subjects at more demanding levels over the course of his secondary school years if he is excelling in them. Your child will also be able to take the subject at a less demanding level if he is unable to cope with the level he is currently at.

At Secondary 4, the entire cohort will be taking a common national examination with a common certificate that is still co-certified by both Cambridge Assessment and Singapore. They will take the individual subject examinations based on their levels from G1 to G3. This common national examination will replace the current O-Level and N-Level examinations. There will no longer be the option to do a 5th year in secondary schools.

Education Pathways starting from 2027. Taken from https://www.schoolbag.sg/story/key-changes-to-education-system-with-fsbb

With the implementation of a new common national examination in 2027, there will be changes to the Post-Secondary posting system and they will be reviewed leading up to 2024 and more details will be released later. 

The full subject-based banding system will start in 25 pilot schools next year (2020) and progressively apply to all secondary schools (except IP schools) till 2024. By 2024, the streaming system will be fully abolished across schools in Singapore. 

At the moment, IP (Integrated Programme) schools will not be affected by these changes due to the different designs of their curriculums. Therefore, if your child is in an IP school, he may not be following the subject-based banding system in secondary school. Any changes in the curriculum for IP schools will be based on the individual schools which have been given the authority to tailor their curriculum according to what they deem fit for their students.

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