Tuesday, April 27, 2021

New PSLE scoring system: MOE releases cut-off points for Singapore's secondary schools, Parenting & Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New PSLE scoring system: MOE releases cut-off points for Singapore's secondary schools, Parenting & Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New PSLE scoring system: MOE releases cut-off points for Singapore's secondary schools

SINGAPORE - Primary 6 pupils will not need to achieve perfect scores to get into top secondary schools when the new PSLE scoring system takes effect this year, based on entry scores for 139 secondary schools released on Tuesday (April 27) by the Education Ministry.

The indicative cut-off scores are based on the new Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system, which will be used for the first time by this year's Primary 6 cohort to gain entry into secondary schools next year.

Under the new scoring system, first announced in 2016, each standard-level PSLE subject will be scored using eight bands known as Achievement Levels (AL). Each pupil will be given AL scores from 1 to 8 for each subject, instead of grades like A* to E.

A pupil's total PSLE score will be the sum of the AL of each of the four subjects, with the best possible total score being 4.

The entry scores released on Tuesday show that top schools such as Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) have entry scores ranging from 4 to 6, while entry scores for other popular schools such as Anderson Secondary School range from 4 to 10, and 6 to 11 for Crescent Girls' School.

The new AL system of broader bands are meant to be less stressful than the old T-score system, as pupils do not have to chase the last mark in a bid to outperform their peers.

The MOE, in a virtual briefing, said it generated the scores based on the 2020 cohort's PSLE results and school choice patterns. It simulated each pupil's individual subject score in AL terms and added the scores for each subject to form the total PSLE score.

The ministry then simulated each pupil's posting outcome based on the new posting system.

If two pupils with the same score vie for the last spot in a school, tie-breakers will come into play. The first tie-breaker will be based on citizenship. Singaporeans will get priority over Singapore permanent residents and international pupils.

The next tie-breaker is the pupil's list of school choices, where a pupil who puts the school higher on the list of choices will get priority.

If the tie still cannot be broken, computerised balloting will be used.

The newly released indicative PSLE score ranges reflect the score of the first and last pupils who would be posted to each school under the AL scoring system.

The PSLE score of the last pupil posted to a school in the previous year is referred to as the school's cut-off point (COP).

Under the simulation this year, the cut-off point ranged from 6 to 30.

Like the old T-score system, the score ranges are likely to vary from year to year depending on a cohort's PSLE results. However, the MOE said the indicative PSLE score ranges have remained largely stable in recent years and fluctuations would typically be by 1 AL.

Pupils who pass Higher Chinese Language (HCL) will continue to receive a posting advantage for admission to Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools.

If pupils with the same PSLE score are vying for limited places in the same SAP school, those with better HCL grades - in the order of distinction, merit and pass - will be allocated a place ahead of other pupils.

This posting advantage applies before the tie-breakers.

With PSLE scores less finely differentiated under the AL scoring system, there are now only 29 possible scores, compared with more than 200 possible aggregates under the previous system.

Schools will therefore be less differentiated by COPs, which means that pupils would have a wider range of secondary schools to choose from, said the MOE.

Given that school choices will be a factor in tie-breakers, parents and pupils should consider carefully how they list the six school choices, the ministry said. It added that parents and pupils can consider at least two to three schools where the pupil's PSLE score is better than the school's COP.

The MOE said it expects that about nine in 10 pupils will not need to undergo balloting and that the vast majority of pupils will likely be successfully allocated one of their six school choices, which is comparable to that under the T-score system.

MOE director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong said that despite the new scoring system, the PSLE itself as an examination has not changed.

He said: "There is a certain stability within the schools' indicated PSLE score ranges, and the system has not been turned topsy-turvy."

The new system is part of the shift away from the overemphasis on examination results and chasing the last point, he added.

Mr Wong said parents and pupils may want to look beyond the COP when choosing a school and consider the pupil's learning needs, interests, school culture and ethos and co-curricular activities, as well as distance between school and home, among other factors.

Schools such as the School of the Arts Singapore, Singapore Sports School and NUS High School of Math and Science have separate admission processes and do not have indicative entry scores because they will not be participating in the 2021 Secondary 1 posting exercise.

Housewife Tammie Wong, 42, whose daughter is taking the PSLE this year at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (Primary), said her daughter is hoping to continue with the affiliated secondary school and opt for either the O-Level or integrated programme track, depending on her score.

However, she added that if her daughter had a score that allowed her to choose between another school's integrated programme, or  join the Express stream at CHIJ St Nicholas, she would choose the latter because the familiar school culture is a priority for her and her daughter.

Ms Wong added that for the other school choices, the distance from their home in Thomson Road would likely play a factor as well.

She said: "School culture is very important, my daughter is very comfortable where she is so she will look for an environment that is similar to what she has now."

READ NEXT: Key questions on the new PSLE scoring system answered.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Phase 2 of underground 'highway' for used water to be financed through borrowing: MOF, Environment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Phase 2 of underground 'highway' for used water to be financed through borrowing: MOF, Environment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Phase 2 of underground 'highway' for used water to be financed through borrowing: MOF

SINGAPORE - A major project that aims to free up space on land by moving facilities for treating used water underground is under way, with about a quarter of a 100km-long conveyance system for central and western Singapore completed so far.

The $10 billion Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS), which is scheduled for completion by 2025, will be one of the nationally significant infrastructures that the Government intends to pay for through borrowing - something that has not been done since the 1990s.

The Bill for the proposed Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Act (Singa), which was introduced earlier this month, will allow the Government to borrow up to $90 billion to pay for infrastructure that will last for at least 50 years.

This means the cost will be spread out over many years, with each generation that benefits bearing part of it.

"The DTSS is an example of how Singapore builds long term. This can actually last us for the next 100 years, so effectively we're building in this generation for the next generation, and the generation after that," said Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Finance, during a site visit to DTSS Phase 2 (DTSS 2) on Monday (April 19).

She was joined at the event by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment.

DTSS is essentially a network of deep tunnel sewers that makes use of gravity to channel used water to three centralised treatment plants, where the water is purified to produce Newater.

The project was conceived more than two decades ago to improve Singapore's water resilience, as the system will allow the Republic to better capture every drop of water for reuse.

When the DTSS is ready by 2025, intermediate pumping stations and conventional water reclamation plants will be phased out, freeing up about 214 football fields' worth of land.

Addressing water and land scarcity

Construction of the DTSS is being done in two phases.

The first phase, which involved more than 100km of tunnels and link sewers serving the northern and eastern parts of Singapore, was completed in 2008 and cost $3.4 billion.

Three conventional water reclamation plants in Kim Chuan, Bedok and Seletar were phased out following the completion of the first phase and the land they sat on was made available for other developments.

Used water was instead channelled to Changi Water Reclamation Plant in the east and the Kranji plant in the north.

Construction for phase two, which will channel used water from the downtown and western parts of Singapore to the new Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, began in 2017.

As at April this year, about 24km of the 100km-long conveyance system for phase two has been completed.

The DTSS is a network of deep tunnel sewers that makes use of gravity to channel used water to three centralised treatment plants, where the water is purified to produce Newater. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

Once in place, land for conventional water reclamation plants in Ulu Pandan and Jurong will be freed up, as will the plots now being used for immediate pumping stations.

The second phase is estimated to cost about $6.5 billion.

Financing projects for the future

Singapore last borrowed for infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s to pay for the large upfront costs of building Changi Airport as well as the Republic's first MRT lines.

By the 1990s, with the economy growing rapidly, the Government paid for infrastructure in full from its revenue.

The country now faces another hump in its development spending needs, with plans for new rail lines and coastal protection measures against rising sea levels.

This comes amid a tighter fiscal situation, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Singapore is expected to record a Budget deficit of $64.9 billion in the 2020 financial year, and is expecting to record another deficit of $11 billion in the 2021 financial year.

But there are measures in place to ensure fiscal prudence.

For instance, only certain "nationally significant infrastructure" can be funded under the proposed Singa law.

This refers to infrastructure that supports national productivity or Singapore's economic, environmental or social sustainability.

Examples include major highways, structures to supply, recover and treat water, and coastal protection measures.

Such infrastructure must last for at least 50 years so as to benefit multiple generations.

It must also be owned by the Government and be controlled by it, or on its behalf. Another criterion is that the expected cost of the infrastructure project should be at least $4 billion.

The Bill will be further debated in May.

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Friday, April 2, 2021

Taiwan train accident: At least 50 killed, flags to be flown at half-mast from Saturday, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Taiwan train accident: At least 50 killed, flags to be flown at half-mast from Saturday, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Taiwan train accident: At least 50 killed, flags to be flown at half-mast from Saturday

TAIPEI - Flags in Taiwan will be lowered to half-mast for three days, starting on Saturday (April 3), to mourn the people who were killed when an express train derailed in a tunnel on Friday morning after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank onto the track.

At least 50 on board the train were killed - the youngest was six years old - and more than 140 injured in the island's worst rail disaster.

The 408 Taroko Express, carrying four crew members and 492 passengers, was travelling from Taipei to Taitung, where most of its passengers hail from. Many were heading home at the start of the Qing Ming Festival to tend to family graves. One French citizen was among the dead, officials said.

The eight-carriage train derailed just after entering a tunnel in Hualien County. The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said the train hit a construction vehicle that had slipped onto the tracks at the tunnel's mouth.

Friday's accident was the deadliest railway accident in Taiwan since the TRA introduced the Tze-chiang limited express, its fastest train category, in 1978. The Taroko Express is a newer model of the Tze-chiang trains.

The crash left four carriages a twisted wreck.

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According to the National Fire Agency, some passengers' bodies were not in one piece when the rescuers arrived, which caused confusion when updating the death toll.

The train's operator Yuan Chun-hsiu was also pronounced dead. The 33-year-old Taichung native's death left his family and colleagues in shock.

"I hope he didn't suffer any pain," said his mother to Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen, who visited the Yuan family after the news of the operator's death.

Mr Yuan, the youngest child of the family, is survived by his mother, three sisters and wife.

The TRA has organised an emergency response team to handle the accident.

The driver of the truck has been taken to a Hualien police station for questioning, said Hualien County Police Bureau chief Tsai Ting-hsien on Friday afternoon.

The truck's handbrake was allegedly not engaged properly, the authorities said. The TRA is planning to demand compensation from the company that owns the truck.

"Who knew the truck would just slide down to the tracks 28 minutes later?" said an employee surnamed Chang.

Though allegedly caused by the truck, Friday's crash has sparked anew longstanding questions about rail safety in Taiwan.

Rescuers work at the site of the train that derailed after colliding with a railway maintenance vehicle (top yellow) which slipped down an embankment above the tracks in the mountains of Hualien, eastern Taiwan. PHOTO: AFP
A general view shows a section of a train that derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien, eastern Taiwan. PHOTO: AFP
Rescuers work at the site of the deadly train derailment in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Upon seeing the twisted train in the tunnel, a Red Cross rescuer leading a team of 11 rescuers described the site as a "living hell". Ambulances were dispatched from Hualien, Yilan and New Taipei City to help the passengers.

The death toll rose as more were pulled from the twisted train carriages, while those uninjured opened exits on the train's top and hopped down with the help of fire fighters. All survivors were helped out of the wreckage before 7pm.

The TRA said it may take a week for the site to be fully restored.

The Taroko Express is one of the local trains that allow passengers to purchase standing tickets, and the 408 train was a packed train with many passengers standing. They were tossed about by the crash impact.

The Taiwan Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the accident, but it may take between three and six months for a conclusion to surface.

"It could be that the handbrake of the truck wasn't engaged, or that the handbrake had malfunctioned," said Yang Hung-chih, who is heading the investigation.

Friday's accident reminded many of the last serious train accident that happened in October 2018, when a Puyuma train derailed in Yilan, just north of Hualien. The Puyuma accident caused 18 deaths, and over 200 people were injured.

The injured on Friday were sent to at least six hospitals near the crash site.

President Tsai Ing-wen is scheduled to visit the injured in Hualien's hospitals on Saturday morning, and has expressed her sorrow over the loss of so many people.

"It's regrettable that an accident happened on the first day of holidays, leading to heavy casualties," she said at a briefing in Taipei on Friday, vowing to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the collision.

China's Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) sent its condolences on Friday evening.

"The mainland is highly concerned about the rescue progress," said Mr Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the TAO.

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