Schools scrapping mid-year exams ahead of schedule

More schools also want to join subject-based banding pilot

The Ministry of Education had announced in September last year that mid-year examinations for Primary 3 and 5 as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students will be removed by 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

By next year, more than half of the primary schools here and over 90 per cent of secondary schools would have scrapped mid-year examinations for some levels - a year ahead of schedule.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung gave this update yesterday at a biennial conference for teachers, where he shared about the progress that schools have made to implement recent policy changes.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) had announced last September that mid-year exams for Primary 3 and 5 as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students would be removed by 2021, to move away from the narrow focus on grades and help students discover the joy of learning.

Yesterday, Mr Ong said that while MOE laid out a schedule for schools to fully implement the changes, many schools have plans to run ahead of it.

In fact, some primary school principals have already made the changes this year - two years ahead of schedule - and other schools are also removing mid-year exams at other levels, he added.

More than 90 per cent of secondary schools would be removing their Sec 3 mid-year exams next year, he said. Sec 1 students no longer have a mid-year exam starting this year.

"So, what we are seeing is that the mentality of competing for even higher scores in even more tests and examinations is giving way to a new movement to take a balanced approach in teaching and assessments, and bring about greater joy of learning," said Mr Ong.

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In another major step to reduce the overemphasis on academic abilities, MOE had also announced in March that it would abolish the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams.

In their place would be full subject-based banding, in which students take subjects at a higher or lower level based on their strengths.

This new system, the ministry had said, would be implemented in about 25 schools next year, and rolled out to all secondary schools by 2024.

But Mr Ong said that several more schools asked to be included in next year's pilot. "We will settle at just below 30 schools to make sure MOE can give the pilot schools proper and adequate support to ensure they succeed."

Addressing more than 1,700 teachers at the event at the Singapore Expo, Mr Ong thanked them for their support. "Any major change will succeed to the extent that it is being supported in the compounds of our schools," he said.

He added that MOE will share more details in the coming months about the transition from T-scores at the Primary School Leaving Examination to broader scoring bands called achievement levels, a change that will take place from 2021, affecting this year's Pri 4 pupils.

The ministry will prepare information packages for principals and teachers to explain the changes to parents and pupils, he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline Schools scrapping mid-year exams ahead of schedule. Subscribe