Mixed reaction from public over the move to abolish secondary school streaming

By 2024, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will put a complete stop to Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams in secondary schools. Instead, students will be embarking on a subject-based banding where they will be taking up subjects at higher or lower levels, based on their strengths.

After implementing the old system for about four decades, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung made this announcement on March 5 (Tuesday) during a debate on his ministry’s budget in Parliament. He also revealed that student will not be sitting for the GCE O-Level or N-Level examinations from 2027, as they will be taking a common national examination and certification.

Students who are in Primary 2 today will be the first group to experience the streaming-free secondary school education system.

This new system is similar to how A-Level offer its subjects at H1, H2 and H3 levels, where students weaker in a particular subject can study at H1 level. H1 has less syllabus to cover than H2 level. For extraordinary A-level students, they would go for subjects at H3 level.

Mr Ong said, “This change will help us to customise education for students, while minimising the effect of labelling and stigmatisation. It will encourage a growth mindset amongst all out students.”

“We are breaking out of a dilemma that we have been grappling with for so many years,” he added.

All Sec 1 students in the 2024 batch will take subjects based on their ability and strengths where subjects like mathematics will be taught at three levels – G1, G2 and G3, with G standing for “General”. G1 will roughly be equivalent to today’s N(T) standard, G2 to N(A) standard, and G3 to Express standard.

“With full subject-based banding implemented, form classes reorganised across the board, and a combined secondary education certificate, we would have effectively merged Express, N(A) and N)T) streams into a single course. The Express, N(A) and N(T) streams, and their labels, will therefore be phased out,” Mr Ong explained, gaining approval form the House.

After this announcement was made, netizens generally gave mixed reaction to the news. Some were not screaming in joy because they felt that the new subject-based banding is no different from the old system.

Over 450 comments were received on the Facebook pages of The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia and TODAYonline.

However, others felt that subject-based banding is a good initiative by MOE.

A bunch of them even questioned why is the new system only being implemented in 5 years and not now.

But, other netizens felt that the streaming system has always been bad, and should have been abolished a long time ago.

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March 2019