I read this article with angst because I think the principal of the school is overcome by his own KPI (Key Performance Index – a method of determining how well a worker is performing). Apparently, the principal of an unnamed mission school had advised his Secondary 5 students to seek transfer to an ITE because he feels that they are unlikely to do well in this year’s O levels examinations.

More importantly, she stressed that she wanted 100% passes in her school, resulting in an entirely punctured self-confidence in the students, along with some fuming parents. It seemed like the principal had forsake the future of her students for the glory of the school. Now, that being a mission school, I understand what it means to do things for the glory of God; but for the glory of the school? That’s stretching it a little.

In fact, I think it’s most probably she didn’t want to be seen not performing well that led her to make such a decision like this. I don’t believe that students should be denied the right to an education that they wish to pursue, especially one in which the students have showed potential for. Moreover, to hear this coming from a mission school is really embarrassing. So much for the glory of God.

CALL it a disheartening start to the new school year.

A group of 27 girls in a Secondary 5 class in a mission school – which shall remain unnamed – were advised by their principal on the first day of school last week to seek transfers to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), since they were unlikely to do well in the O levels this year.

To back her point, she even flashed the girls’ detailed N-level grades on the board in class using an overhead projector; she also stressed that she wanted 100 per cent passes in her school.

The result: teens with punctured self-confidence and some fuming parents.

The girls, who had done well enough in last year’s N-level examinations to get to Sec 5, were looking to repeat their good performance at the O levels this year and move on to the polytechnics.

Those with strong N-level results had a new option this year: They could have skipped Sec 5 and headed for higher-level technical courses at ITE, but the deadline for applications closed on Jan 2.

Five girls from the class confirmed the incident.

They have decided to stay on in the school, but if they choose to take their principal’s advice, they can still apply for ITE courses starting in April.

The father of one of the five, describing the incident as ‘totally defeating’ for parents like him, said he and his wife had been motivating their daughter to aim to do well in the O levels this year.

‘My daughter’s self-esteem had gone up multiple levels just seeing her results and realising her hopes to attempt the O levels.

How are we to motivate our children to do better with second chances when there are principals who are so uncaring and unethical?’

His daughter said she is not considering a transfer to the ITE because she wants to go on to a polytechnic after Sec 5.

She added: ‘It is very sad when your principal doesn’t have faith in you and will not give you a chance.’

But having decided to stay on, she said she feels added pressure to do well: ‘I feel quite nervous, and so do quite a few of my classmates.’

Another parent said that after the principal’s talk, he had to do ‘damage control’ to convince his daughter that she stood a good chance of getting into a sports management course in a polytechnic.

A third parent, a mother, is considering writing to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Saying this was a result of school heads being too concerned with MOE’s annual ranking of schools, she added: ‘This is a mission school at that. Where’s the compassion?’

She said she thought moves to weed out weaker students by urging them to drop difficult subjects were a thing of the past.

When annual ranking of secondary schools was introduced in 1992, some schools were reported to have pressed students to drop ‘tougher’ subjects such as Literature, in apparent attempts to protect or improve their rankings.

MOE has tweaked the system, taking fewer subjects into account.

About 60 per cent of Normal stream students who sit for the O levels do well enough to win places in the polytechnics.

Of the five girls who spoke to The Straits Times, only one defended her principal, saying she ‘meant well’.

Said the teen: ‘My class is a weak class. Some of the girls may be better off in the ITE.’


Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 12th January 2008

Reader's Comments

  1. Tianhong | January 12th, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    this is really a sad case. poor student~ no matter how bad the student may do, I think what they really need is hope.

  2. zeezzen | January 13th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    A friend of mine in Bukit Panjang Govt High encounter similar experience when he failed his Additional Mathematics prelim. In order not to bring down the school’s ranking, he was forced to drop that subject. I think it is really bad of the school to do such things. The principal should do serious reflection or rather I think the MOE should deal with these schools or principal properly. How can MOE let such things happen? Is the MOE doing any work? Hello MOE!??!?!

  3. The bludgeoning of hope. at Constructive Deconstruction | January 13th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    […] got pretty pissed when I saw Jean’s entry “Students advised to transfer to ITE so as not to affect school ranking?” No, I wasn’t pissed at Jean but at the article that she […]

  4. nicole | January 13th, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Haha, I remember the times when my teacher forced me to drop Additional Maths as I failed it at the end of secondary 3. I stuck to my guns, and told her, I will not drop it. Screw the school ranking. Its damaging alot of confidence.

  5. Ridz | January 13th, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Heh, I took higher malay in secondary school. I think it was a class of about 30 people…If you took my buddy and me out of the class, the lowest grade achieved was a B3.

    with us, you had 2 C6’s…Lol

  6. confidence | January 14th, 2008 at 9:09 am

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  7. Jason Ho | January 14th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    As a failing ‘N’ Level student once, I do remember the days where we were condemned by teachers and principals during the start. The way they spoke to us and treated us were downright insulting.

    All we are good for was helping teachers carry stuffs and do hard labour. I also remembered once after getting my N level results, the school reduced five Sec4 N level classes to just four. Not too sure where the ones that didn’t make it go to man…

  8. zeezzen | January 14th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    looks like quite a number of students have such experiences before for the past many years. I’m glad it has finally been brought up to the press. hopefully the MOE will do something about it.

  9. spyer | January 16th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    This is the fault of Key Performance Indicators in all our government services. While KPIs are good measures to keep these agencies on their toes, they have become benchmarks for bonus and budget allocation.

    All high-level civil servants’ pay and promotion are dependent on achieving their KPIs.

    Every student is just another digit to them.

  10. Hoping | January 19th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    My kid’s primary school has all along won the gold medal for a particular event in the Youth Festival. Last year, they managed to win only the silver medal. Guess what? This year, that CCA has been designated a non-core CCA. Same cherry-picking happens on a national level. Engineering, then IT, then life sciences ….

  11. Simply Jean | January 28th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    @tian hong: well, usually “it’s for the students’ own good”

    @zeezzen: i guess the principals have their own free will to run their schools – the idea is probably not to have MOE poke their nose into everything… unless it’s something big, i guess

    @nicole: i passed my A pass for the first time during mock test ๐Ÿ˜›

    @Ridz: haha.. did your school complain?

    @Jason: hmm… ITE?

    @spyer: well, to be fair, there *are* good principals and teachers and i have seen and met many of them ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Hoping: well, it’s about being realistic ๐Ÿ™‚

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