Streaming still has a place in Singapore's education system, but there is a need to change the negative perceptions that students and society have of students from slower streams.
"The question is to figure out how to do it, and that is something which will take the effort of the whole of society," Second Education Minister Indranee Rajah said yesterday.
In a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report on equity and education, the streaming of children, especially at a young age, was highlighted as a problem that could cause social divisions to set in early.
On Singapore, the report highlighted the country as among the top in the world for improving the education levels of successive generations. At the same time, disadvantaged students here find it tougher to match their more well-to-do peers, despite faring very well against their peers from other countries.
When asked about streaming yesterday, Ms Indranee, who is heading a task force to help children from disadvantaged households meet their full potential, 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."
She was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a camp co-designed by the Ministry of Education and Outward Bound Singapore.
The five-day, multi-school camp is meant to promote social mixing and nurture character traits such as resilience and discipline.
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 have ranged from Pulau Ubin to East Coast to Changi over the five days.
During such camps, students 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.
Student Joshua Cordeiro, 15, from Hwa Chong Institution, said: "Some of us have 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 with more opportunities to benefit from outdoor education.