Monday, April 8, 2013

PSLE entry scores: a reliable indicator of school quality?

The Ministry of Education recently abolished secondary school banding by academic results. Until 2012, MOE grouped groups secondary schools into nine bands based on their O Level results. Schools with the best O Level results were in band “one”, and the poorest performing schools were in band “nine”.

Parents will no doubt find some other way to rank secondary schools. The most popular method looks to be using schools’ PSLE entry scores, but how well do these scores correlate with academic bands? Are there “good value for PSLE score” schools?

To investigate this, I looked at the 2009 PSLE cut off scores (for the Express stream) of 66 schools, and compared it against the schools’ bands four years later, in 2012.

In my (Tobit) regression, I found that if you wanted to go to a school one band better, you needed 4 more points in the PSLE exam on average. I’ve plotted this relationship in the chart below. Not surprisingly, schools that take in better students also tend to do better in the O Level examinations.

Even so, there are gems, and there are and black sheep. Some schools have a high entry score but a lousy band. For example, Fairfield Methodist had an entrance score of 246 in 2009, very similar to Band 1 schools, but was only on band 7 in 2012.  

On the other hand, some schools have a low entry score but a good band. For example, Nan Chiau only requires an entry score of 232, but its band is on par with schools like SJI which has an entry score of 244. Other “good value for PSLE score” schools are listed at the end.

2012 is the last year schools will be banded, and I’m sure many parents will place great emphasis on PSLE entry scores as an indicator of school quality in the future. As the data shows, a school with a high entry score isn't necessarily good.

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