SINGAPORE - Schools will remove mid-year examinations for all primary and secondary school students by next year, in an ongoing move to shift the focus from academic grades and tests.
Announcing this in Parliament on Monday (March 7), Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that this builds on earlier efforts to give students space to develop their interests, and to focus on their learning and less on marks.
Mid-year examinations were scrapped for Primary 3, Primary 5, Secondary 1 and Secondary 3 students in the past three years.
Progressive changes were made for pupils in Primary 1 and Primary 2, who now do not have any tests and exams, and are not given grades.
Speaking during the debate on his ministry's budget, Mr Chan said these changes have made positive impact, as schools and teachers can better pace and deepen students' learning.
"They use ongoing assessments to identify what students have mastered and the areas they have difficulties with. Students also focus more on their learning and less on marks," he added.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that schools can choose to remove the mid-year exams for any of the remaining levels this year, if they are ready to do so.
Currently, more than a third of secondary schools and about one in 14 primary schools have gone ahead to cut their Secondary 2 and Primary 4 mid-year exams respectively.
This will free up about three weeks of curriculum time per level for teachers to use more varied and engaging ways of learning.
Mr Chan said that the removal of mid-year exams will give more space to developing life skills such as dealing with failure and adaptability, in response to Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who had asked how schools will instil in students such abilities beyond book smarts.
These include self-directed learning and developing 21st century competencies like knowledge, skills and values that students will need to thrive in the new economy and interconnected world.
MOE said that schools will continue to use a range of assessments and activities to evaluate students' learning, and provide feedback and guidance through regular assignments.
To create more space for students to explore their interests, MOE is also reviewing curriculum content and assessment demand, said Mr Chan.
A standard curriculum may not be able to meet the diverse learning needs and capabilities of students, he said.
An "average curriculum" will mean that many students will be overstretched, while others are under-stretched. "Hence, we must have a range of options to cater to our students' diverse abilities and needs," he added.
Said Mr Chan: "Our teachers must have the ability to pick and choose from a menu of options and customise them to suit the diverse and respective needs of our students."
These moves, he said, seek to bring about a cultural shift where students are intrinsically motivated to learn and worry less about comparing with others.
In addition, regular home-based learning, which will also allow students to take charge of their learning, will be implemented for all secondary and pre-university students by the end of the year.