Stumped by math, science at PSLE But Malays did better at‘A’ levels, statistics showHere, the media is providing a snapshot of how the Malays are performing in the education system. The report says that Malay students continue to do worse and worse in maths and science at the PSLE level, but have shown very good improvement at the A-levels. So the reader's overall impression may be that the Malays aren't doing that well, but they aren't doing that badly either (because they managed to do a lot of "catch-up", by the A-level stage).
Tuesday • December 23, 2008
MALAY pupils continued to see a slight dip in performance at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) — especially in science and math — but showed a marked improvement at the GCE “A” levels as the revised curriculum took effect.
According to the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) annual report card, PSLE science has been a problem subject for Malay pupils, with pass rates going down from a high of 82 per cent in 2000 to 73.6 per cent last year.
It was the same for math, with just 56.8 per cent of Malay pupils passing the PSLE paper last year, compared with 64.6 per cent in 2000.
Chinese pupils had 89.8 per cent passes last year, down from 91.6 per cent in 1999, while Indians saw 74 per cent passes, a marginal fall from 74.7 per cent two years ago.
But Malay pupils made up for the slack at the lower level by registering their best performance in the “A” levels last year — 76.4 per cent getting at least 3A (advanced level) or H2 passes, as well as a pass in General Paper or the new subject, Knowledge and Inquiry — an 11.7 per cent improvement over 2000.
This conclusion is flawed. The simple reason is that the report says nothing about the percentage of Malay students who managed to qualify to take the A-levels at all.
If at the PSLE stage, the Malay students are already so far behind the other races, we know that the Malays must form a disproportionately large number of Singaporeans who drop out of school after the PSLE.
At the O-level stage, the gap widens even further. The latest 2007 statistics (available from the MOE) show that while 85.4% of the Chinese students achieved 5 or more O-level passes, only 59.4% of the Malays students managed to do the same.
In other words, once again a disproportionately large number of Malays will not even qualify for the A-levels (or for the polytechnics - see the cut-off points here as a rough guide). Instead many of these Malay students will have to drop out of school, or go to the Institutes of Technical Education.
As for the Malays who do enter junior college and take the A-levels, it is true that they do close the gap somewhat, relative to the other races. However, the majority of Malay students in each primary school cohort don't even get that far.