Students who sat the O levels last year have outperformed their seniors at the national exam, putting in the best showing in nearly four decades going back to 1978.
Of the students who took the exam, 83.8 per cent attained at least five passes, surpassing the 83.3 per cent mark set by the 2014 cohort, which was the first to breach the 83 per cent mark. In addition, 96.1 per cent attained at least three passes. Normal (Academic) students and private candidates also did better than in the previous year.
Associate Professor Jason Tan, an education policy expert at the National Institute of Education, said the solid showing was due to schools here doing a better job of preparing their students for the crucial national exam, which determines their eligibility for post-secondary education.
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said better teaching and learning resources played a role.
MORE THAN JUST RESULTS
We are celebrating more than the results. We want to celebrate the values and lessons they've learnt along the way.
BOWEN SECONDARY PRINCIPAL BERNARD CHEW
"Many schools have adopted differentiated learning that caters to the different needs of students. Students these days are encouraged to think and communicate their ideas," he added. "This helps teachers understand their students better."
Dr Chan also pointed out there have been fewer students taking the O levels in recent years, with more skipping them and moving on to a higher level in the Integrated Programme. A total of 29,723 students took the O-level exam last year, compared with 30,964 students in the class of 2014. In the few years before that, over 34,000 took it.
As with recent years, the Education Ministry did not name the top scorers when it released the results yesterday. This did not stop schools from celebrating their top achievers. At Bowen Secondary, the top three and the three most improved students from each class got applause from their classmates.
The school also recognised those who showed resilience under difficult circumstances, such as student Nicole Wee. The 17-year-old, who had a blood viral infection weeks before the exam period in October, had to prepare for and sit the O levels from a room inside her ward at the Singapore General Hospital.
But she never felt alone as her teachers and classmates would visit with notes and practice papers. Her teachers also coached her when she needed help. Bowen Secondary principal Bernard Chew said: "We are celebrating more than the results. We want to celebrate the values and lessons they've learnt along the way."
At Chung Cheng High School (Main), the students who had received at least five distinctions were named when principal Chan Ying Yin presented the results. Among them was Jessica Glazov, 16, who received six A1s and three A2s. She said: "The teachers... would go the extra mile to help us in our studies."
In a Facebook post yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated the students. "For many of you, this marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another," he said. "Whichever path you choose, I wish you all the best as you start on your next adventure."