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New secondary school system allows students to take subjects according to their strengths

Some 28 schools will participate in the pilot project which will be rolled out to all schools by 2024

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A new way of organising students from various academic courses in the same class is being implemented by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday (Sep 3).

Under the new system, students will take subjects at a higher or lower level based on their strengths. This offers humanities subjects – geography, history and English literature – at a more demanding level from Secondary 2, for Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) students.

Twenty-eight secondary schools will start piloting this full subject-based banding before it will be rolled out to all schools by 2024.

The full subject-based banding was announced earlier this year to replace the existing system of streaming students into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) based on their PSLE results.

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Pilot schools

The Education ministry said that “The pilot schools were selected based on their readiness to participate in the pilot. Factors considered include their involvement in the earlier phases of SBB (subject-based banding) and their experience in supporting different profiles of learners.”

Students in these schools will take a set of subjects at a common level such as art, design and technology, as well as music. For other subjects, students will be grouped in classes according to the level at which they take each subject.

Dorothy Lim, a Bowen Secondary teacher said her school took up the offer to be a pilot venue because of its experience implementing subject-based banding since 2017.

“We were able to stretch some of our students from the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams,” she said. “By doing so, we can provide all our students a keener set of social emotional skills and on top of that, allow them to pursue subjects that are pitched at their level, to the best of their ability.”

Ms Lim said the main challenge encountered by teachers was catering to all students in the three different streams.

The school has since given teachers learning opportunities with the ministry, teachers from other schools, as well as sessions for professional development.

While Bowen Secondary will not reorganise form classes according to CCAs next year, it will be conducting another trial for Secondary 1 students after the September school holidays.

The aim is to prepare at least half of the school’s teachers for the pilot next year when Secondary 1 students from different academic courses attend form classes together.

New rooms for additional flexibility

St Andrew’s Secondary School will also be piloting full subject-based banding next year.

Teacher Valerie Yeo said it was a “natural” move for them since the school was already conducting lessons using differentiated instruction. Its Secondary 1 classes will have a mix of students from the different academic courses.

“We’re hoping to do a random mix, because that’s what the society is like out there. So we are not going to specifically engineer because our goal is to provide authenticity,” Ms Yeo said.

The school is also looking at building multi-purpose rooms to encourage more “versatility and flexibility” in grouping students.

St Andrew’s Secondary first implemented subject-based banding last year, and currently has a total of 52 Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) students under the new system.

More secondary schools will progressively introduce aspects of full subject-based banding from 2022 to 2024.

The 28 schools piloting full subject-based banding from 2020 are the following:

  1. Ang Mo Kio Secondary School
  2. Assumption English School
  3. Bedok Green Secondary School
  4. Bowen Secondary School
  5. Clementi Town Secondary School
  6. Deyi Secondary School
  7. Edgefield Secondary School
  8. Evergreen Secondary School
  9. Gan Eng Seng School
  10. Greendale Secondary School
  11. Jurong Secondary School
  12. Jurong West Secondary School
  13. Mayflower Secondary School
  14. Montfort Secondary School
  15. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Sec)
  16. Pei Hwa Secondary School
  17. Ping Yi Secondary School
  18. Queenstown Secondary School
  19. Riverside Secondary School
  20. St. Andrew’s Secondary School
  21. St. Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School
  22. St. Patrick’s School
  23. Swiss Cottage Secondary School
  24. Temasek Secondary School
  25. West Spring Secondary School
  26. Whitley Secondary School
  27. Yuying Secondary School
  28. Zhenghua Secondary School

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