No more mid-year exams for all levels by 2023: Chan Chun Sing

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Lessons at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School.
Lessons at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School. (PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE — Mid-year examinations will be removed for all primary and secondary levels by 2023, with schools being able to choose to remove the exams for some or all levels this year if they are ready.

The move, announced by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Monday (7 March), comes as part of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) efforts to reduce the excessive focus on testing and to place greater emphasis on learning.

"Over the last few years, we removed mid-year examinations for P3, P5, Sec 1, and Sec 3. We saw the positive impact," Chan said. "Schools and teachers can better pace and deepen students’ learning. They use ongoing assessments to identify what students have mastered and the areas they have difficulties with. Students also focus more on their learning and less on marks."

MOE said that with the removal of such exams for all levels, it will free up about three weeks of curriculum time per level for teachers to use more varied and engaging methods to promote student-initiated learning and develop competencies such as inventive thinking, adaptability, and cross-cultural skills.

Schools will continue to conduct assessments to gauge the learning progress of students and balance the weighting for the end-of-year examinations. Schools will continue to provide students with feedback and guidance on their learning through their regular assignments.

Already, more than one-third of secondary schools and about one in 14 primary schools have already taken the initiative to remove their Secondary 2 and Primary 4 mid-year exams.

These schools shared that the removal of mid-year examinations has allowed for better-paced teaching and learning, and has given students more time for all-round development.

Full Subject-Based Banding to replace Secondary School streaming by 2024

MOE will also continue with structural reforms, moving away from secondary-school streaming to Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB), so as to provide multiple pathways and opportunities to cater to the students' different strengths and interests.

Under Full SBB, there will no longer be separate Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) courses at secondary schools, as these courses will be removed by 2024.

Subject levels will be known as G1, G2 and G3 (G stands for General), according to different levels of learning demands. Students will have the flexibility to take subjects at different levels based on their subject-specific strengths and learning needs. They will also be in mixed form classes where they can interact with peers of different strengths and interests.

Full SBB was implemented in 28 secondary schools in 2020, and will be progressively rolled out to all secondary schools by 2024. By 2023, about 90 schools – totalling more than two-thirds of secondary schools – would have implemented Full SBB, including 31 which came on board this year.

MOE will extending Full SBB to three schools which currently offer only the Express course: Crescent Girls’ School, Tanjong Katong Secondary School and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School. From 2024, these three schools will also admit Secondary 1 students taking mainly G2 subjects.

"Full SBB represents a major shift to customise learning for each student according to their strengths. However, I must say Full SBB does require more resources, uses a more complex coordination of time-tables, and requires our teachers to adapt their teaching methods," Chan said.

To expand post-secondary pathways under Full SBB, MOE will relax the minimum grade requirement for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) – from Normal (Academic) Grade 3 to Grade 4 for a student's two best subjects from Academic Year 2024.

The ministry will also increase the Direct School Admission (DSA) places for government and government-aided junior colleges, from 10 to 20 per cent of their non-Integrated Programme JC1 intake from the 2022 DSA-JC exercise.

This means that more students can now seek admission to a JC based on their talents and achievements that may not be demonstrated at the O-Levels.

Raffles Institution to be fourth EMAS centre

MOE will designate Raffles Institution (RI) as the fourth centre for the Elective Programme in Malay Language for Secondary Schools (EMAS) from 2023.

EMAS aims to nurture students with talent and interest in Malay Language to attain a high level of proficiency in the language and a deep appreciation of Malay culture. It is open to all students offering Higher Malay Language. Students who are not enrolled in the EMAS host school can enrol in the programme as visiting students.

There are currently three other EMAS centres: Bukit Panjang Government High School, Tanjong Katong Secondary School and Anderson Secondary School.

MOE will also work with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore to set up a new school in western Singapore to serve students with multiple disabilities - those with at least two impairments and may have accompanying medical issues - aged seven to 18.

This will be the second government-funded Special Education school that is dedicated to serving students with multiple disabilities, with the first being the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School in Pasir Ris.

The school will offer programmes built on a curriculum that seeks to help its students develop skills to lead independent and meaningful lives. It will offer programmes that enable students to pick up vocational skills that would prepare them to contribute productively to community and life.

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