More pupils can take secondary school subjects at higher level

More pupils eligible for the Normal courses in secondary schools can take subjects at a more demanding level following the roll-out of the new Achievement Level (AL) scoring system.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that about 65 per cent of pupils who qualified for the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses this year can take at least one subject at a more demanding level in secondary school.

This was due to the new scoring system, the ministry added as it released the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results yesterday.

Under the T-score, or transformed score, system last year, 47 per cent of Primary 6 pupils eligible for Normal courses had qualified to take secondary school subjects at a higher level.

Under the AL scoring system, students from Normal courses can take more challenging Normal (Academic) or Express subjects in Secondary 1 based on their scores in individual subjects.

PSLE candidates this year were the first cohort of pupils to be graded under the AL system.

The new system, first announced in 2016, reduces fine differentiation of pupils' examination results by grouping similar scores in eight scoring bands, said the ministry. Each pupil will be given AL scores from 1 to 8 for each subject, instead of grades like A* to E.

Pupils whose PSLE scores qualify them for Normal courses, for instance, can take certain subjects at Normal (Academic) or Express level if they score AL 5 or better in a Standard-level subject at PSLE.

They will be eligible to take the subject at the Normal (Academic) level if they score AL 6 or better at the Standard level or AL A at the Foundation level in that subject at PSLE.

In 2018, MOE introduced subject-based banding in all secondary schools, with Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses to provide students with greater flexibility in taking various subjects at a more demanding level based on their subject-specific strengths and aptitudes.

By 2024, the ministry aims to apply full subject-based banding in all schools, allowing students to take subjects based on their ability and strengths.

This means that Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses will be merged into a single course and students will take a common national examination and graduate with a common secondary school certificate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'More pupils can take secondary school subjects at higher level'. Subscribe