Boon Lay Secondary School has been dividing classes by their students' co-curricular activities (CCAs) since 2017. And Education Minister Ong Ye Kung found out first-hand the impact this "unorthodox" system is having on its students when he visited the school.
In Parliament yesterday, he recalled how students explained that they looked forward to attending morning assembly, cutting back on late-coming and absenteeism rates, because they get to meet friends and seniors from their CCA groups.
"One student told me, 'Now, I can pour my heart out to my seniors every morning before assembly, even if it is for 10 minutes. But to do that, I must come to school, and come on time,' " said Mr Ong. Another student told him how in the past, a teacher might admonish a noisy class by asking 4N(T) to keep quiet.
"All the other Normal (Technical) students immediately felt like they were singled out," said Mr Ong. "Now, the teacher would say, 'NCC, keep quiet!', and the Normal stream students would feel okay." NCC stands for National Cadet Corps.
"The Ministry of Education will need to study their results further, but there is now a genuine belief that the social environment of the school can positively influence a student's academic behaviour and performance," he said.
Boon Lay Secondary students attend assembly sessions and Character and Citizenship Education lessons together with their CCA mates, regardless of streams.
Classes are further grouped into three clusters: uniformed groups, performing arts, and sports and clubs. Students attend camps and overseas trips with their clusters, which encourages mixing for students in gender-or ethnicity-specific CCAs, such as The Boys' Brigade and Malay dance.
However, students still attend classes in teaching groups that are differentiated by stream, based on subject-based banding.
Boon Lay principal Tan Chor Pang said: "Teaching groups offer more flexibility because they can be formed in any way we want. The groups are not their identity. They are merely classes they go to because they take a certain subject combination."
This means that students' subject combinations can be fluid, and they can take out-of-stream subjects easily. And because teaching groups are not fixed form classes, it is easier for the student to integrate into the class. "We differentiate identity and affiliation from teaching and learning," said Mr Tan.
Secondary 4 Normal (Technical) student Hafiz B Immran, who is in NCC, said he used to mix with only students in his stream before classes were reorganised - partly because he was shy, but also because he was afraid others would look down on him.
"Now, I have worked with people from the other streams. We gain knowledge and build character and leadership together. I think this has really helped me step out of my comfort zone," said Hafiz, 16.
English and social studies teacher Josephine Tan, 31, who is in charge of the choir students, said that unlike traditional form classes which change every one to two years, the CCA-centric classes allow her to follow her students throughout their time in the school.
"We, as teachers, can understand them a lot better and give them a holistic education, not based only on academics, but also on their development and growth on a personal level," said Ms Tan.