In a welcome move, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that, “By 2024, full subject-based banding will be implemented nationwide, and we will merge Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) into one secondary school course. Streaming in secondary school will be phased out.”
The Minister revealed the much-awaited change at Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Committee of Supply (COS) debate on 5 March 2019.
Streaming in secondary school to be scrapped by 2024
In 2014, MOE introduced subject-based banding SBB(Sec) in 12 prototype schools, allowing students posted to the N(A) and N(T) courses to take some subjects at a higher academic level starting from Secondary One, if they have performed well in those subjects at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
Students posted to the N(A) and N(T) courses could take subjects at a higher level if found suitable to do so by their schools. These subjects include English, Mother Tongue languages, Mathematics and Science.
Students have responded well to SBB (Sec) so far. According to MOE, over 80% of those surveyed responded that SBB(Sec) had helped them develop their strengths and increased their post-secondary options. They also enjoyed interacting with their peers from different classes and courses, and appreciated the opportunity to make new friends.
With Full SBB, more subjects will be available for students to be taken at different levels over the course of their secondary school education.
In addition to English, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics, and Science, which are currently offered under SBB(Sec), SBB will now be expanded to include Humanities subjects – Geography, History and Literature.
Full SBB will be piloted in selected schools in 2020, and progressively adopted by secondary schools by 2024. Further details will be shared at a later date.
MP Louis Ng had earlier expressed his views in Parliament, about streaming in secondary school.
He had said, “Streaming has its benefits, but unfortunately it has also stratified our secondary schools.”
“The reality is that students in the Normal streams tend to have a lower social-economic status than those from the Express stream. That is my main concern.”
“There is a strong stigma associated to being in the Normal stream. Why do we have a system that might make our youths feel inferior at a young tender age?”
N- and O-Level exams to go from 2024
In another major change, MOE will also consolidate the existing GCE N- and O-Level examinations into a new common national examination and certification framework.
From the 2024 Secondary One cohort, students will receive a single national certification which reflects the level at which each subject is taken.
This is similar to how A- Level students today take subjects at H1, H2, and H3 levels, and how PSLE students take subjects at Standard or Foundation levels.
The level of difficulty for each subject will be mapped from the current curricula:
- N(T)-Level will be mapped to General 1 (G1),
- N(A)-Level to General 2 (G2)
- O-Level to General 3 (G3).
The new national examination and certification framework will take effect from 2027.
Along with these changes, MOE will also review the admissions to Post-Secondary Education Institutions (PSEIs).
“We will no longer have fishes swimming down three separate streams, but one broad river, with each fish negotiating its own journey,” said Minister Ong.
Also READ: MOE announces changes to Direct School Admission Exercise for Secondary Schools (DSA-Sec) from 2019