Abolishing mid-year exams for young learners frees up time for more creative pursuits

The elimination of mid-year exams has made space for roughly two weeks of curriculum time allowing students to have more opportunities to engage in self-exploration, creative pursuits, and facilitates quality-time with parents and siblings

Photo: You Tube screen grab from MOE Singapore

Beginning this year, schools will do away with mid-year exams for Secondary 1, along with all rated evaluations and examinations for Primary 1 and 2 pupils. This announcement was was made public last September by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. Mid-year exams will also be removed in stages over the next three years for Primary 3, Primary 5, and Secondary 3.

The elimination of mid-year exams has made space for roughly two weeks of curriculum time allowing students to have more opportunities to engage in self-exploration, creative pursuits, and facilitates quality-time with parents and siblings.

Hua Yi Secondary School principal Sandra Gwee said: “The most immediate benefit of the changes has been the additional bandwidth that we have, which has allowed us to spend more time discussing student matters, different aspects of their learning, and to have deeper conversations with stakeholders and parents about our school approaches.”

An enjoyable way to learn

Previously, Hua Yi Secondary School held a one-day “Learning Fiesta” in May which included carnival rides and a singing competition. For this year, the school removed mid-year exams not just for Secondary 1 but also for Secondary 3.

The school principal, Ms Gwee, 58, who took over the reins in 2017, decided to tweak the annual initiative this year since the removal of the mid-year exams for Secondary 1 and 3 opened up some “free time.”

Dubbing it the “Learning Festival,” the event later this month will be extended to five days and students will have the chance to demonstrate their understanding of topics like robotics. Meanwhile, other groups of students are organising a fashion show related to healthcare technology. Others also took part in programmes and activities such as sand-art animation.

“For students, an important part of learning and development is having an opportunity to apply their learning in authentic context and to receive recognition for their learning,” said Ms Gwee, who has been an educator for 35 years.

At another secondary school, learners are encouraged to explore mathematical concepts through the stories behind them, such as who came up with those ideas and how. The stories are told through animated manga and anime characters.

MOE’s part in making the transition effective

In response to some questions, an MOE spokesperson said that the schools are the ones to determine and decide how best to use the time which has been freed up.

“Schools also understand that the mid-year examinations should not be replaced with additional practice or high-stakes tests,” MOE spokesperson said.

The Education Ministry helps schools adapt by providing resources and professional development to school educators on the use of formative assessment practices to assist learners understand their strengths, improve on their capabilities, and enhance their learning processes.

Principals and teachers said that teachers now have more time to come up with creative lessons, appraise learners’ interests and have the time to reflect on more productive learning idea methods and discuss these with their colleagues.

Mrs Wee-Kwan Liam, principal of Waterway Primary School, said: “Changes to assessment do not change the curriculum, the intents, contents and processes.

What this basically does is to provide educators more time to plan for and implement learning activities that can make learning more contextualised, original, fun and effective./TISG