Boon Lay Secondary's 'unorthodox practice' of organising form classes by CCAs

The Ministry of Education has announced that secondary schools will do away with the Normal and Express streams. The Straits Times visits two schools that have reshaped their classes so that students from different streams can mingle.
Boon Lay Secondary students attend assembly sessions and Character and Citizenship Education lessons together with their CCA mates, regardless of streams.
Boon Lay Secondary students attend assembly sessions and Character and Citizenship Education lessons together with their CCA mates, regardless of streams.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Boon Lay Secondary School has been dividing classes by their students' co-curricular activities (CCA) since 2017.

In a speech during the debate on the Education Ministry's budget on Tuesday (March 5), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung lauded the school's efforts to reshape its students' social environment.

Mr Ong said that across the school, absenteeism rates have fallen and academic results have improved since this "unorthodox practice" was implemented.

"The Ministry of Education will need to study their results further, but there is now a genuine belief that the social environment of the school can positively influence a student's academic behaviour and performance," he said.

Boon Lay Secondary students attend assembly sessions and Character and Citizenship Education lessons together with their CCA mates, regardless of streams.

Classes are further grouped into three clusters: uniformed groups, performing arts and sports and clubs. Students attend camps and overseas trips with their clusters, which encourages mixing for students in gender- or ethnicity-specific CCAs, such as The Boys' Brigade and Malay dance.

However, students still attend classes in teaching groups that are differentiated by stream, based on subject-based banding.

Boon Lay principal Tan Chor Pang said: "Teaching groups offer more flexibility because they can be formed in any way we want. The groups are not their identity. They are merely classes they go to because they take a certain subject combination."

This means that students' subject combinations can be fluid, and they can take out-of-stream subjects easily.

 
 
 
 

For instance, a Normal (Academic) student can join an Express class to take Mathematics at that level. And because teaching groups are not fixed form classes, it is easier for the student to integrate into the class.

"We differentiate identity and affiliation from teaching and learning," said Mr Tan.

This method of class organisation has reaped rewards, he added, such as a decrease in absenteeism and late-coming.

Sec 4 Normal (Technical) student Hafiz B Immran, who is in the National Cadet Corps, said: "I want to be a good role model to my juniors in and outside class."

Hafiz, 16, added that he used to mix only with Normal (Technical) students before the re-organisation of classes - partly because he was shy but also because he was afraid other would look down on him.

"Now I have worked with people from the other streams. We gain knowledge and build character and leadership together - I think this has really helped me step out of my comfort zone," he said.

English and Social Studies teacher Josephine Tan, 31, who is in charge of the choir students, said that unlike traditional form classes which change every one to two years, the CCA-centric classes allow her to follow her students throughout their time in the school.

"We as teachers can understand them a lot better and give them a holistic education, not based only on academics but also on their development and growth on a personal level," said Ms Tan.