SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Education (MOE) will do away with the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams in secondary schools by 2024.
Instead, there will be full subject-based banding, in which students will take up subjects at higher or lower levels, based on their strengths.
The ministry will start full subject-based banding in about 25 schools next year and progressively apply it to all secondary schools, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Tuesday (March 5) during the debate on the ministry’s budget.
Here is what you need to know:
1. WILL SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO ORGANISE STUDENTS INTO FORM CLASSES BASED ON ACADEMIC BANDS?
With full subject-based banding, students will take each subject at a level suited to their ability. The ministry said it expects to see more students taking combinations of subjects at different levels, unlike today where most students take subjects at the level of their “stream”. This gives schools a chance to reconstitute their form classes in different ways.
Doing so will allow students of different backgrounds to grow and learn together, form deeper friendships and work well together. The pilot schools will be trying out new ways of organising students in both form and subject classes. Best practices can be adopted by more schools later on.
2. IF MY CHILD IS DOING WELL ACADEMICALLY, WILL HE OR SHE BE DISADVANTAGED NOW THAT THE FORM CLASS HAS STUDENTS OF DIFFERENT ABILITIES?
Students doing well academically will not be disadvantaged, said MOE.
For each subject, students will be taught in subject classes based on their ability levels. Students in the same subject class are already assessed to be able to study that subject at the same level, whether G1, G2 or G3 – so there will not be a major gap in learning abilities.
Within the same class, teachers will also further differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of the class, which is no different from today. Each student will still be challenged to learn based on his or her individual pace.
3. HOW WILL THE SECONDARY SCHOOL POSTING SYSTEM CHANGE?
Mr Ong said MOE has decided that it is better not to disrupt the current posting system. This means that secondary schools should continue to admit students across three PSLE scoring bands, even though the streams have been merged.
“PSLE still serves as a useful initial gauge of the subject bands that each student is most suited for at the beginning of Sec 1. So students admitted in the first PSLE scoring band will initially take mostly G1 subjects, those in the second PSLE scoring band will take mostly G2 subjects, and those in the third take mostly G3 subjects. Admitting students across three PSLE score bands will allow schools to offer subjects of all bands,” said Mr Ong.
Once they enter secondary school, the students can discover and further develop their strengths and interests, and full subject-based banding will allow them to take a combination of subjects across different bands.
There is also an important social consideration, he explained.
“Admitting students from different PSLE scoring bands into the same secondary school will ensure that our students get to make friends from diverse backgrounds. Indeed, one of the key objectives of education is forging a cohesive society.”
4. IF STUDENTS CAN CUSTOMISE THEIR EDUCATION UNDER FULL SUBJECT-BASED BANDING, WHY DO WE STILL NEED TO POST STUDENTS INTO SECONDARY SCHOOLS ACROSS THREE SCORING BANDS, WHICH SEEMS SIMILAR TO STREAMING?
The transition from Primary 6 to Sec 1 is significant for all students. Thus, it is important to ensure that students learn successfully by taking subjects suited to their learning pace and needs, said MOE.
Students’ PSLE scores still serve as a useful gauge of the pace of learning that students are most suited for at the beginning of Sec 1. But this is just at the point of admission to Sec 1 to match the suite of subjects to the students’ ability then.
Beyond Sec 1, with full subject-based banding, students will be able to take more subjects at a different or more demanding level, depending on how well they do for those subjects. It will also give students more opportunities to interact and forge friendships with peers from different backgrounds.