SINGAPORE - Changing the negative perceptions of streaming will take societal effort, but it can be done, said Second Education Minister Indranee Rajah on Thursday (Nov 1).
"I'm a great believer in the fact that if we set our minds to do something and we have the will to do it, we will be able to do so," she said.
"I think Singaporeans as a whole are very sensitised to the question of being able to progress together. We talk about 'One people, one nation'. I think (changing mindsets) is a goal that people will readily accept and adopt. The question is to figure out how to do it, and that is something which will take the effort by the whole of society."
She was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a camp co-designed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Outward Bound Singapore (OBS).
Under the MOE-OBS Challenge Programme, the five-day multi-school camp is meant to promote social mixing, among other character traits like resilience and discipline.
In response to a question on the unintended effects of streaming and whether it is still relevant today, Ms Indranee said: "The intention behind streaming was to help students progress at a pace that was comfortable for them... It greatly reduced dropout rates and ensured that people were able to stay in school and access the different pathways.
"So what we want is to retain a system that allows people to learn at their own pace but at the same time encourage more social mixing, empathy and programmes that allow students to do things together so they get to see each other for who they really are."
A total of 440 students from four schools - St Patrick's School, Hwa Chong Institution, Geylang Methodist Secondary School and Deyi Secondary School - are attending the expedition-based camp which began on Monday.
The camp activity venues ranged from Pulau Ubin, East Coast and Changi across the five days.
During such camps, students will take part in place-based learning.
For example, one of the expedition routes passed by the old Changi Hospital, where the students learnt about its use during the Japanese Occupation.
OBS' assistant director of programmes development David Lim said this helps the students learn and appreciate Singapore's heritage.
He said: "We want students to go back more grounded and with a sense of rootedness to Singapore."
Khushi Maden, 15, who is from Nepal and studying at Geylang Methodist Secondary, said she was usually "socially awkward".
But the camp forced her to step out of her comfort zone and make friends, which she felt was good.
She added: "Sometimes I feel left out because my friends (in the camp) forget that I can't understand Chinese and they will speak Chinese to me."
Student Joshua Cordeiro, 15, from Hwa Chong Institution, said: "It's a good opportunity to interact with others. Some of us come from different socio-economic backgrounds but this camp helped us to understand that everyone is the same deep down."
After 2020, all Secondary 3 students will have to undergo these camps as part of a National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, which provides students in Singapore with more opportunities to benefit from outdoor education.