SINGAPORE - The education system is in the process of being "loosened up" to reduce stress on students, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (May 30).
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking steps to introduce more flexibility. These include moving away from a rigid T-score in the Primary School Leaving Examination to a wider grade band system, returning to the original aim of recognising non-academic abilities through the Direct School Admission, and adopting aptitude-based entry to higher institutions.
"We must remove that do-or-die mentality for every checkpoint, so that even if you don't do so well, it's okay," Mr Ong said at the opening ceremony of a pre-university seminar at the Nanyang Technological University.
"We have a pretty good system, well-regarded around the world... but one thing we need to improve is to reduce that stress in the system."
He said that MOE will do its part to take care of students' well-being.
"MOE will make sure that the education system will evolve to help you not be too hard on yourself," he said, encouraging students to look out for each other's mental health and communicate with their parents regularly.
The minister noted that the stress level has gone down among lower primary pupils, with no examinations till the end of Primary 2 and the curriculum being streamlined.
But workload at the higher levels such as secondary schools and junior colleges remains heavy, he said.
Year 5 student Kenneth Kwan from River Valley High School said a key takeaway from Mr Ong's speech was not to be too hard on himself.
"It's inevitable that exams bring stress but as a student I take it in a positive light... exams teach us to do independent study which will be useful for work in future," said the 17-year-old.
"If I don't do as well in tests, I take tests as learning opportunities to do better the next time."
The pre-university seminar from Monday to Friday brings together 550 students from 33 pre-university institutions like junior colleges and polytechnics to think of ways to transform Singapore. This year's event is co- organised by MOE and River Valley High School.
The students were split into teams and tasked to come up with solutions to complex social issues such as aging populations and smart technology.
Republic Polytechnic student Abu Bakar's team looked at how to better integrate certain groups into society, like the elderly and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community .
Said the 18-year-old: "I really enjoy the friendships made, and having conversations about things that matter to us and are relevant to this country we're living in, but may not be in our syllabus.
"Regardless of where we came from, we all look at each other as youth of Singapore, working to make our home better."