In sweeping moves designed to move away from the narrow focus on examinations and grades, Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) will be cutting down on school examinations, particularly mid-year exams during transitional years for students.
From next year, there will be neither assessments nor exams for Primary 1 and 2 pupils, said MOE in a press release on Friday (28 September). Teachers will conduct discussions and quizzes to gauge their pupils’ learning progress, and there will be no grades given. There will still be homework.
Presently, pupils from both levels have to take weighted assessments, while Primary 2 pupils also have to take a year-end exam.
Mid-year exams for students in Primary 3, Primary 5, Secondary 1 and Secondary 3 will also be removed in phases from 2019, starting with the Secondary 1 level. All students from Primary 3 to Secondary 4 or 5 will also not have more than one graded assessment per subject per school term.
As schools move away from assessments and exams, report books for primary and secondary levels will no longer indicate the pupils’ class and level positions.
They will also not indicate information such as class/level mean, minimum/maximum marks, underlining/colouring of failing marks, pass/fail for end-of-year result, mean subject grades and overall total marks.
In announcing the changes, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said, “Removing these indicators is for a good reason, so that the child understands from young that learning is not a competition, but a self-discipline they need to master for life.
The report book should still contain some form of yardstick and information to allow students to judge their relative performance, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.”
In this regard, teachers for the Primary 1 and 2 levels will use qualitative descriptors to report their pupils’ progress. These include conduct, personal qualities, form teachers’ comments, and involvement in community-based and co-curricular activities.
For the other levels, marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as a whole number, without decimal points, to reduce the excessive focus on marks. Parents will continue to receive information about their child’s progress in school during parent-teacher meetings.
With the removal of grades at Primary 1 and 2, MOE will also adjust academic criteria for Edusave awards, which are given to top students. The awards will now recognise the pupils’ attitudes to learning, such as diligence, curiosity, collaboration and enthusiasm.
The removal of mid-year exams will free up as much as three weeks of curriculum time for each two-year block (P3 and P4, P5 and P6, S1 and S2, S3 and S4). Schools will use this time to pace out teaching and learning.
“This can help them to manage this transition more smoothly and with greater confidence, and not feel rushed into being examination-ready just half way through the transition year,” said MOE.
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