Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Integrated Programme (IP) - Boon or Bane

No dead ends for students - bridges and ladders available

THE Ministry of Education (MOE) is committed to providing multiple pathways in our education system to cater to the varied strengths of our students ('More through-train schools: Beware of IP implications' by Mr Lee Min Shing; last Saturday).

The Integrated Programme (IP) is one such pathway that caters to academically strong students, with the aim of exposing them to broader learning experiences beyond the academic curriculum. Likewise, the O-level pathway caters to students who would benefit from a more structured learning environment, providing a strong foundation for a variety of post-secondary education options.

Mr Lee had concerns about the increased pressure on students to do well at the PSLE in order to be admitted into the IP, or be denied entry into the top junior colleges. We would like to assure him and all parents that even as the number of IP places is being expanded, every IP school sets aside places for students from other secondary schools to join the IP at Secondary 3.

MOE has also expanded the total enrolment for JCs offering IP so that O-level students from other secondary schools have access to these JCs.

JCs offering the IP now have more students from secondary schools not offering the IP than before the IP was introduced. Their students are also coming from a larger number of secondary schools than before.

MOE strives to provide more options for our students at different stages of education. In making a choice between different pathways, parents should take cognisance of their child's academic ability, interests and learning style, and choose what is most appropriate.

Bridges and ladders are available, so that there are no dead ends. Our universities admit students from the IP schools, JCs not offering the IP, Millennia Institute and the polytechnics.

Dr Cheong Wei Yang
Director, Planning Division

Beware of IP implications

THE Integrated Programme (IP) does have the benefit of allowing students to spend more time in other areas of study for a more holistic and all-rounded education ('More schools to offer Integrated Programme'; last Saturday).

But such a trend has implications which I hope the Ministry of Education (MOE) has considered.

First, it creates different classes of schools - the mainstream and the IP schools.

The trend of better schools adopting the through-train programme is worrying because it creates an elite society in the education system.

With streaming into IP schools beginning as early as Primary 6, it will only exacerbate the problem of our children being put through tuition lessons and supplementary classes at a young age as parents seek to push their children into the IP, which would almost guarantee them a place in the university.

Second, there is the larger question of mobility in the education system, given the increase in competition for places in junior colleges.

This might further motivate students from mainstream schools to work harder to gain admission into better junior colleges.

On the other hand, such increased 'barriers of entry' into a JC could also discourage students in neighbourhood schools from striving to enter a junior college, given the higher odds they now face and with the bulk of the spots taken up by IP students.

The benefits of the Integrated Programme are many. But in grooming this select group, we should not ignore the implications on the broader group of students and late bloomers who might be equally talented but are discouraged by the trend.

Lee Min Shing,
ST Forum, 26 Nov 2011

Don't judge kids by grades alone

AS IN the past, recent reports on the PSLE results gave many parents reason to rejoice: their little darlings made it, some with flying colours. To all who gave of their best, my heartiest congratulations.

Unfortunately, the euphoria was all about grades.

From the reactions of some parents I know, it seems that results with aggregates below 250, from four As or three As plus one A*, are just not good enough.

Remarks like 'disappointing', 'not to our expectation' and 'should have got more A*' clearly betray their displeasure at their children's performance, doing nothing to boost their morale.

It irks me that anyone should find such results unsatisfactory. Scoring straight As in any examination is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination. What counts more is that the child has done his best - his effort should be appreciated.

That is why when my grandson scored As in all subjects with an aggregate of 245, I was elated; the fact that he did not get any A* does not bother me. He gave his all and got a glowing report from his teacher and principal. To me, that is far more important than mere numbers.

Parents who keep pushing their children to unreasonable academic heights should take note of a recent report about a South Korean high school senior who stabbed his mother to death after being beaten with a golf club and baseball bat to get better grades.

It is sad that we live in a society where, seemingly, grades are the be-all and end-all of education. Escaping from this trap to go beyond grades may well be the greatest challenge for Singapore in the foreseeable future.

Lee Seck Kay,
ST Forum, 2 Dec 2011

Tuition boom as kids prep for Integrated Programme
Parents feel competition is now keener, and IP schools and JCs will be tougher to get into
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2011

BUSINESS is booming for tuition centres that promise to help good students excel in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

The reason: More parents want to help their children score 250 aggregate points or more at the PSLE and secure places in secondary schools offering the Integrated Programme (IP).

More are sending their children to tuition centres that charge $100 to $300 for four two-hour lessons a month. Some fork out upwards of $500 a month for tuition in two or three subjects.

One of the most sought-after tuition centres, The Learning Lab, has opened a second branch, while the Mind Stretcher Learning Centre has gone from 15 to 18 branches this year, and will be opening another three. Growan Learning Centre in Marine Parade has 50 pupils on its waiting list.

Several centres conduct entrance tests and examine the children's detailed academic records before placing them in their tuition groups.

The boom has extended to private tutors as well, and parents have been known to offer tutors handsome bonuses if their children succeed in making it to an IP school.

The IP allows secondary school students to bypass the O levels and go straight to the junior college (JC) level. It is offered at several top secondary schools and JCs, with more in line to introduce it over the next two years.

While the PSLE has always been a high-stakes examination for Primary 6 pupils aiming for a top-rated secondary school, parents say the game has changed significantly.

They feel competition is keener, now that entering an IP school secures a six-year ticket all the way to the JC level.

Business development manager Alan Lim, 40, an old boy of Raffles Institution, wants his Primary 5 son to also attend the premier boys' school, which has an IP all the way to the A levels.

His son has topped his level for two years running, but Mr Lim has enrolled him for tuition and motivation camps to ensure he aces the PSLE next year.

He worries that if his son fails to enter RI at Secondary 1, it will be too difficult to get in at the JC level, even if he does well at the O levels at another school.

Learning Lab manager Ling Cheah said the vast majority of parents who send their children to its centres are aiming for places on the IP. 'It is their holy grail,' she said.

Parents give two reasons for their anxiety. First, as more top secondary schools offer the IP, they believe these schools will become more difficult to get into.

Cedar Girls' Secondary and Victoria School, which will offer the IP from next year, take pupils with PSLE scores of at least around 240. Parents expect that minimum to rise because other IP schools have cut-offs above 250.

Most parents who spoke to The Straits Times were also worried about the JCs their children would attend.

With the IP already running in several top JCs, they feel that students who do the O levels elsewhere will find it harder to get in because most of the places would go to the colleges' IP students.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has given repeated assurances that these JCs are offering just as many places as before to those coming in via the O-level route.

But in the absence of hard numbers from the schools, parents have resorted to doing their own checks, and cite figures to explain why they worry.

Store manager Celia Lim, 38, who has high hopes for her Primary 5 son, said she checked on Hwa Chong Institution and RI: 'Each school has 1,200 Junior College 1 places every year, and only 250 places go to O-level students. Previously, all their 800 to 900 JC 1 places were given out based on O-level results. So, of course I worry.'

She spends $800 a month on tuition for her son. Next year, she expects to spend even more by enrolling him at The Learning Lab.

Responding to parents' concerns, MOE said yesterday that the expansion of the IP to more schools would mean opportunities for more students to benefit from the programme. Schools with the IP now have just over 3,000 places in total. There will be 5,000 places when seven more schools offer it by 2013.

The ministry said: 'Opportunity for students to enter the JCs offering the IP after taking their O levels has not diminished after the IP was introduced, because MOE has expanded the enrolment at the JCs offering the IP, as well as created new JC places for students.'

It was referring to schools such as Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Dunman High and River Valley High, which now offer JC-level classes. They formerly stopped at Secondary 4.

A spokesman for Hwa Chong said yesterday said students who enter the school after the O levels come from 50 secondary schools across the island.

An RI spokesman said that in terms of A-level performance, those who join at the junior college level perform just as well as those who have been on the IP since Secondary 1.


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