SINGAPORE - To encourage students to go beyond book smarts, the Education Ministry (MOE) announced on Friday (April 8) it will remove the aggregate score for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
It will also increase discretionary admissions to admit more to polytechnics and universities on the basis of their strengths and interests.
To allow more students to benefit from outdoor education, a five-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) expedition-based camp will be made compulsory for all Secondary 3 students from 2020.
Some of these changes were announced by Acting Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung who outlined the ministry's spending plans for the year in the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament.
Here's a look at the key changes for the different stages of education.
- Nurturing Early Learners curriculum, a set of kindergarten resources developed by MOE, will be shared with the pre-school sector from this year. These include big picture books in English and mother tongue languages designed by the MOE to develop early bilingualism.
- Focused Language Assistance in Reading programme extended this year to more than 50 not-for-profit pre-school centres. It provides support for K2 children with difficulties in learning English.
* PSLE aggregate score to be replaced by wider scoring bands
- From 2021, the PSLE's aggregate score or T-score will be scrapped.
- The new scoring system, which affects this year's Primary 1 pupils, will involve wider scoring bands, akin to grading at O and A levels.
- Pupils will get grade bands - similar to how students get graded from A1 to F9 for the O levels or A to U for the A levels.
- The new scoring system will also no longer be based on how pupils do relative to their peers, as it is now. The hope is that this will encourage students to focus on their own learning rather than competing to do better than their peers.
- Details will be revealed in the middle of the year.
- MOE will take the next few years to develop and test the new exam system, and secondary school posting systems.
- The PSLE review, first announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2013, is meant to reduce the over-emphasis on academic results and allow students more time and space to develop holistically.
* DSA review
- The Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme will be reviewed to recognise achievements and talents in specific areas - which was its original objective - instead of general academic ability.
- Introduced in 2004, DSA was intended to promote holistic education by providing opportunities for students to be recognised for a more diverse range of achievements and talents - such as in sports and arts - when seeking admission to secondary schools.
- But it has been criticised for turning into a channel for students to secure places in the most sought-after Integrated Programme schools whose students bypass the O levels.
- Some parents also send their children for DSA preparation classes and enrichment programmes to boost their chances of doing well in interviews and auditions.
* New OBS camp for all Secondary 3 students
- More opportunities will be provided to students to benefit from outdoor education, to build confidence, teamwork, forge camaraderie and lay a foundation for active and healthy living.
- From 2020, a five-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) expedition-based camp will be compulsory for all Secondary 3 students. The camp will be conducted on Pulau Ubin and the new OBS campus on Coney Island.
- Students from different schools will be brought together, giving them a chance to interact.
- The camp will be piloted with some schools starting in 2017. It will be rolled out across schools from 2020, which is when the $250-million OBS campus on Coney Island is expected to be ready.
- MOE's four Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres, such as the ones in Jalan Bahtera and Labrador, will be upgraded over the next few years to cater to more students.
* Polytechnics to expand aptitude-based admissions
- Up to 12.5 per cent of the polytechnic intake, starting with next year's cohort, will be admitted through the new Early Admissions Exercise (EAE). It allows students to secure a conditional place in a diploma course of their choice, even before they sit for their O-level examinations.
- The EAE will assess students' suitability for admission on the basis of their aptitude, talents and interests in the course being applied for.
The exact mode of assessment may vary across courses, and can include interviews, submission of portfolios, and aptitude tests.
Students with exceptional talents in areas such as leadership, community service, sports and arts may also apply.
- Currently, the polytechnics already take in such students through the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise (DPA) and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise (JPSAE). Currently, DPA admits up to 2.5 per cent of the polytechnic intake each year, while the JPSAE takes in up to 5 per cent.
-The EAE will replace the DPA as well as take in the JPSAE.
- From next year, up to 10 per cent of the total number of ITE students who progress on to the polytechnics each year will also come through a similar EAE system.
- From next year, the Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, and Singapore Management University will admit up to 15 per cent of their annual intake under the Discretionary Admissions Scheme (DAS). This is an increase from the current 10 per cent.
- Applicants who do not meet the cut-off point for the course they applied to, but who demonstrate aptitude for the course and possess a minimum level of academic competence to cope, may be considered under the DAS.
- Around 12,500 courses will be eligible for SkillsFuture credit by April this year, up from 10,000 in January.
- All five autonomous universities will set up lifelong learning units to offer shorter, bite-sized certificate programmes to cater to mid-career workers.
- From January to March this year, about 18,000 individuals have utilised their SkillsFuture Credit, with about $5.2 million disbursed. About 17 per cent of them are aged 60 and above.
* Developing skills mastery
- More opportunities will be provided to polytechnic and ITE graduates in the Earn and Learn Programmes (ELP), which lets participants build on their skills while earning an income, and progress towards a diploma or degree.
- 20 new ELPs will be introduced this year, covering 10 additional sectors - accountancy, air transport, electronics, energy and chemicals, facilities management, healthcare, hotel, maritime, spatial design and visual communication.
- This brings the total number of ELPs to 37, covering 22 sectors.