Greater scope for students to excel, be assessed in areas beyond academic results: MOE

Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng visits Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School on Jan 4, 2016.
Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng visits Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School on Jan 4, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - In the next five years, students can expect less emphasis on their academic results, more time and space to pursue their interests in schools, as well as to take part in outdoor activities.

As they move to the tertiary level, the polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and universities will assess these students on attributes beyond their academic scores.

This mission of the Ministry of Education was outlined on Tuesday (Jan 19) by Acting Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng (Schools) and Ong Ye Kung (Higher Education and Skills).

It was set out in an addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address in Parliament last Friday (Jan 15), when he mapped out the Government's goals and policies for its new five-year term.

The ministry's move to reduce the over-emphasis on academic results continues an effort that began about five years ago, in a bid to make learning more enjoyable and examinations not be "overly perceived'' as "high-stake endeavours".

It will give primary school pupils more opportunities to pursue their interest in the arts, music and sports, the ministers said.

The policy comes amid expectations from educators, parents and students of a revamp of the way Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) students are graded right down to the last decimal point, a system called the T-score.

It will replaced by grade bands similar to the A1 to F9 grades used at O-level examinations, a change Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in 2013 was to take place in a few years' time.


Last year, then-Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is now Fiance Minister, said the PSLE changes may take place this year at the earliest. Parents and children had been assured that they will be given enough time to respond and adjust.

The ministry also said in its addendum that strong emphasis will be placed on outdoor education.

The approach came under the spotlight last year when a group of Primary 6 pupils of Tanjong Katong Primary School died in an earthquake that occurred while they were trekking up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.

The tragedy sparked fierce debate, with some calling for a ban on overseas expeditions while others defended the merits of such learning trips.

The two ministers are in favour of outdoor activities, saying they "build... ruggedness and resilience in our students". The sentiments reflect Mr Heng's view who said last year that outdoor education helps develop social and leadership skills in students.

At the tertiary level, the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University will offer more applied degree programmes with a strong nexus with industry.

The institutions of higher learning will also expand the way they select students, by assessing them on a range of attributes, not just their academic scores.

Various initiatives are also in place to let individuals build hands-on, industry-relevant skills while in school, and take charge of their personal upgrading after that.

These include the Earn and Learn Programme that lets ITE and poly students to study while working for a salary, and the $500 SkillsFuture Credit given to all Singaporeans aged 25 and older to pay for courses to stay relevant in the workplace.

"The objective is not to chase for more and higher qualifications, but to achieve mastery in everything we do. As a society, economy, and nation, we need to recognise and celebrate different forms of successes, and embrace a culture of lifelong learning," said the addendum.