Q & A

Will there still be Secondary 5?

"Our plan is that by 2024, all students enrolling into Sec 1 will go through a four-year curriculum for all subject bands. At the end of Sec 4, in 2027, these students will attain the common certificate with various subject permutations - six G3 subjects and one G2 subject, or five G3 and two G2, or two G3, three G2 and one G1, and so on," Education Minister Ong Ye Kung told Parliament yesterday.

"This will require us to undertake a review of our post-secondary posting system so that students taking a combination of G1, G2 and G3 subjects can be fairly considered for ITE, polytechnics and junior colleges. Our review will recognise students' particular strengths that make them suitable for specific post-secondary courses.

"2024 is a few years away, and we will use this time to undertake this review. We will also explore other alternatives to a fifth year in secondary schools, like the current Polytechnic Foundation Programme, to help students bridge over to polytechnics or JCs."

How will the secondary school posting system change?

After deliberating on this, said Mr Ong, MOE has decided that it is better not to disrupt the current posting system. This means secondary schools should continue to admit students across three PSLE scoring bands, even though the streams have been merged.

"PSLE still serves as a useful initial gauge of the subject bands that each student is most suited for at the beginning of Sec 1. So, students admitted in the first PSLE scoring band will initially take mostly G1 subjects, those in the second PSLE scoring band will take mostly G2 subjects, and those in the third take mostly G3 subjects," said Mr Ong.

"Once in secondary school, students can discover and further develop their strengths and interests, and full subject-based banding will enable them to diverge into various paths, taking a combination of subjects across different bands."

What will happen to Spectra and Crest, which currently take in only Normal (Technical) students, and schools with specialised programmes such as NUS High School, the School of Science and Technology, Integrated Programme schools and other schools that take in only Express students?

Mr Ong said there is value in having certain schools with specialised programmes. But he admitted that the downside is the lack of mixing in more specialised schools.

He said they "have to make a special effort to recruit students from all backgrounds, wisely, using their Direct School Admissions. They will have to ensure that students participate actively in inter-school mixing opportunities, such as combining schools CCAs, Outward Bound School camps and Values-in-Action projects".

At the same time, there is also scope for these specialised schools to offer more subject options. Spectra and Crest, he said, should offer more Normal (Academic) compared to today, and could possibly also offer a few Express-level subjects. "Similarly, in time, it will also make sense for the schools that take in only Express students to offer some subjects at the N(A) or N(T) level," said Mr Ong.

Will schools continue to organise students into form classes based on academic bands?

The MOE said that with full subject-based banding, students will take each subject at a level suited to their ability. It expects to see more students taking combinations of subjects at different levels, unlike today, where most students take subjects at the level of their stream.

This gives schools a chance to reconstitute their form classes in different ways.

Doing so will allow students from different backgrounds to grow and learn together, form deeper friendships and work well together.

The pilot schools will be trying out new ways of organising students in both form and subject classes. Best practices can be adopted by more schools later on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Q & A'. Print Edition | Subscribe