2020: Full Subject Based Banding
In 2020, a few secondary schools will introduce full subject-based banding to replace streaming. This is probably the most substantive change announced in the last few years for secondary school students. Instead of students joining the usual Normal (Technical) (N(T)), Normal (Academic) (N(A)) or Express streams, they would be assigned subjects at three different levels (G1, G2 and G3). G1 is roughly pegged to Normal (Technical) standard while G3 is equivalent to the old Express standard. This allows students who are good at certain subjects to study that subject at a higher level and vice versa. Students will take a common examination at the end of the four years and the three streams would be phased out.
There are most obvious benefits. One is the removal of the N(T) and N(A) labels. Also, it allows students some sort of flexibility – they can push themselves in their better subjects while doing a lower standard for their weak subjects. In terms of teaching, teachers can now teach classes where the academic ability is more standardized, allowing the teacher to customise lessons.
However, I would like to point out some caveats. Secondary school students are still being streamed. A few secondary schools are offering six-year through-train tracks which is distinct from this new four-year track. Instead of the four tiers in the past, there are now only two tiers, the elite and the rest.
Another caveat is how would people view students and the standard of subjects they can choose? Another question is whether the student with mostly G1 subjects be looked down by his peers and adults? Would parents refuse to let their children drop to G2 or G1 subjects and make a big fuss to the school? In the first place, would schools have the enough resources to let everybody take the subject at all three levels, or will some students end up taking the subject at the wrong level?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying MOE made the wrong move by removing streaming. There are merits in the new system and I know people who had benefitted from it when MOE quietly implemented it on a smaller scale the last few years.
What can I do?
One thing I do know is that since students can move between subject standards between levels, it is thus important to always encourage your child to maximise his potential. You might even consider have extra help if you find that your child has the potential to move to a better grade subject. Minister for Education, Mr Ong said this best, “that no child’s fate is fixed, and in an environment that encourages growth and development, and promotes holistic education, they will fulfil their potential to be sons and daughters of Singapore whom we are proud of”.
Written by: Richard Leong
This is Part 2 of the ‘Three Biggest Changes in the Educational Landscape 2019 – 2021.
To read more about Part 1 (Removal of School Exams and Grading from Report Cards), click here.
To read more about Part 3 (Changes to PSLE Grade), click here.