askST@NLB: How education system changes can help more kids succeed

The Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie talks about upcoming changes to the school system, such as a new PSLE scoring system, and how parents can help their children navigate them.
Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie speaking at an askST@NLB session last Friday at the Central Public Library. During the session, she explained the recent changes to the education system.
Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie speaking at an askST@NLB session last Friday at the Central Public Library. During the session, she explained the recent changes to the education system.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

With less emphasis on exams, new set-up will bring back joy of learning: ST correspondent

Education is a social leveller, and recent changes to the education system to place less emphasis on exams will help more children succeed in diverse ways, said Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie.

These changes will bring back the joy of learning, she added.

"We are a system that is overly focused on exams… That puts a narrow focus on education objectives. It also takes away all the time you can spend on PE (physical education), sports, CCAs (co-curricular activities), music, dance and others," she told more than 100 people at the Central Public Library in Victoria Street recently.

She was giving a talk on navigating the recent changes to the school system that will take place over the next few years, and the implications of these changes.

"The recent changes have been great. Everyone has been realising that soft skills are becoming far more important than just the hard skills like reading and numeracy," she added.

During the 90-minute session, Ms Davie, who has covered education for ST for more than two decades, explained the big changes that have been put in place.

In the primary school level, there has been less emphasis on exams, grades and class or cohort positions and more emphasis on active learning, physical education, arts and nurturing the joy of learning.

From 2021, the Primary School Leaving Examination will be scored with wider bands and the scores will reflect pupils' individual performance, and not their performance relative to their peers.

"These changes are good as they will emphasise less the individual rankings, which was a stressful system," said Ms Davie.

"With the wider banding system, the stress level should be considerably lower," she added.

  • >100

  • Number of people who attended the askST@NLB session about navigating the recent changes to the school system that will take place over the next few years. 

 
 
 
 

At the secondary school level, students will be introduced to subject-based banding from next year.

With subject-based banding, students can study English language, mother tongue languages, mathematics and science at a more demanding level from lower secondary. About 25 schools will start the pilot, with more schools progressively adopting the new subject-based banding system.

Over the years, post-secondary and tertiary institutions have also introduced more aptitude-based admissions, with increasing focus on helping students discover their individual strengths, said Ms Davie.

"Developing your strengths, interests and your natural talents is becoming a lot more important to help students get into post-secondary institutions," she said.

Last year, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung revealed that 20 per cent of the total admissions for polytechnics - or about 4,600 students - were under the Early Admissions Exercise, which is an aptitude-based exercise.

Parent Daisy Foo attended last Friday's talk, which is part of the askST@NLB sessions organised by The Straits Times and the National Library Board, and found it informative.

The 43-year-old, who has two children in polytechnic, said: "I agree with the changes. It is good to focus on helping children discover themselves, and where their talents and interests lie."

The next askST@NLB, on the state of the economy and how it affects jobs, will be held on Dec 13. Sessions are streamed live on the ST Facebook page.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline 'How education system changes can help more kids succeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe