Sunday 17 November 2013

Subject-Based Banding: Normal stream students to get more options from 2014

Pilot plan for those with at least A in a subject in PSLE to take it at Express level
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 15 Nov 2013

FROM next year, Normal stream students at a dozen selected schools who scored at least an A in a subject in the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) will get to take it at the Express level from Secondary 1.

Announcing this yesterday, the Education Ministry (MOE) said the move was to better cater to a student's strengths. It hopes to provide this option to students in all secondary schools by 2018.

For a start, the initiative will be piloted at these secondary schools: Ang Mo Kio; Bedok Green; CHIJ St Joseph's Convent; CHIJ St Theresa's Convent; Jurong; Jurong West; Pei Hwa; Ping Yi; Presbyterian High, Queenstown; St Patrick's and Unity.

Said Mr Abdul Mannan, principal of Ang Mo Kio Secondary, where each cohort has about 80 Normal (Academic) students, and 40 in the Normal (Technical) stream: "These students may not have achieved a high overall T-score for PSLE, but if they scored well in a certain subject, they should be able to cope with it at a higher level." He added that by allowing Normal stream students to take subjects at Express level, "they may be more motivated to do well and will not lag behind their peers in the Express streams in so many subjects".

The scheme was first revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August's National Day Rally in a bid to "give students the flexibility to learn each subject at their own pace", he said. Yesterday, the MOE gave details on how the scheme will work during the pilot period, giving it a chance to review the initiative before rolling it out to all schools.

Before, only upper secondary students in the Normal stream were allowed to take subjects at a higher level. But from next year, Sec 1 students in the 12 schools' Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams will be allowed to study the subject at the Express level, if they had scored an A or A* for the PSLE.

Normal (Technical) students with a B or C grade for a subject at PSLE will get the choice to study it at the Normal (Academic) level. If they had taken subjects at the foundation level in PSLE, they must achieve grade 1 - 85 marks and above - to be able to pursue them at the Normal (Academic) level.

* Normal (Academic) students pass subject-based banding test
N(A) students from pilot scheme did 'comparably' with peers from O-Level cohort in 2018
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2019

He was the only Normal (Technical) student taking Chinese at the Express level in his school. Unity Secondary School's Keane Chua was also taking English at the Normal (Academic) level.

Now 16, Keane, who will soon start a foundation programme at Republic Polytechnic to ready him for the institute's pharmaceutical science course, said that having his language strengths recognised while in secondary school has given him self-belief.

"It was a chance to deepen my knowledge of the subject - for example, at the N(T) Chinese level, the tests consisted of multiple-choice questions but at the Express level, I was doing comprehension, compositions and oral exams. It made me realise that I had the potential if I worked hard and thought positively," he told The Straits Times.

Unity Secondary was one of 12 schools that piloted subject-based banding (SBB), introduced in 2014 to allow N(A) and N(T) students who score at least an A for English, mathematics, science or mother tongue at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to take the corresponding subject at the Express level. N(T) students who score B or C can take the subject at the N(A) level.

They can also take subjects at a higher level if they do well in them after starting Sec 1.

And students selected for the scheme have raised the bar for themselves.

N(A) students from the pilot scheme "performed comparably" with their peers from the O-Level cohort in last year's exams, said the Ministry of Education (MOE), with 90 per cent achieving passes.

Another 90 per cent of N(T) students who took subjects at the higher N(A) level also achieved passes in those subjects last year.

The scheme has been rolled out to all schools offering the N(A) and N(T) courses, and according to latest MOE figures, 60 per cent of N(T) students and 40 per cent of N(A) students in Sec 1 last year took subjects at a higher level.

Teachers ST spoke to highlighted how the scheme plays to students' strengths, and gives them a better chance to qualify for the polytechnics' foundation courses.

Mayflower Secondary School mathematics teacher Chio Kah Leng saw six of his N(A) students promoted to the Express course after taking subjects at a higher level, and showing they could manage them while doing well in their other subjects.

"It is a good initiative by MOE... Students' strengths are identified early," said Mr Chio, 41, who has been teaching for 15 years now.

"Students in N(A) are usually prepared to go into polytechnics or the Institute of Technical Education. But this scheme gives them a chance to get into the Express stream and, from there, some can even make it to junior colleges."

Swiss Cottage Secondary N(A) student Krisha Janelle Gopu, 14, who wants to enrol in Singapore Polytechnic's foundation programme, takes English, mathematics and art under the SBB scheme.

"There's more one-on-one time with the teachers, and more chances to clarify things on the spot. The teachers also give feedback tailored to us," said Krisha.

At Swiss Cottage, smaller classes are set up for SBB students, when the Express ones are full.

For Keane, who was promoted to the N(A) stream from N(T) when he was in Sec 2, getting the chance to carry on his education at a polytechnic is a big achievement after he scored just 149 in the PSLE.

He added that getting to do subjects at a higher level gave him the motivation to "not be at the bottom anymore".

Greater Flexibility In Secondary School Subject Offering -14 Nov 2013

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