Reduction of national exam topics brings some relief to students

They welcome move after home-based learning, but worries remain

The Ministry of Education's decision to reduce the number of topics that will be tested in national examinations has eased the pressure on many students, and some parents believe that a lighter curriculum load is fair, given that teachers may not be
Some parents believe that a lighter curriculum load is fair, given that teachers may not be able to teach students as thoroughly at home as they would in school.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Graduating students are relieved that fewer topics will be tested in national examinations this year, saying they need time to catch up on areas that were taught during the full home-based learning period last month.

The Covid-19 outbreak forced a series of stay-at-home measures which also saw students learning remotely from April 8 to May 4.

The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board had earlier this month released on its website the list of topics that will be taken out of examinations. Schools have also informed students of the lighter curriculum load.

The cut topics include "interactions within the environment" for Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) science, organic chemistry for O-level chemistry and vectors for O-level mathematics.

For PSLE mathematics at the standard level, pupils will not be tested on content under speed, volume, pie charts, solid figures and nets.

Humanities subjects - geography, history, social studies - will also have less content examined.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said these topics are typically taught towards the end of the academic year. It made the decision based on the impact of the extended circuit breaker on curriculum time. MOE said the topics will still be taught in schools but will not come up in the national examinations.

Secondary 4 student Crystal Chan, 16, said: "There is less content to memorise. For me, I think the removal of organic chemistry from pure chemistry will help to ease some stress as that is a content-heavy topic.

"But if we were to go to a junior college and take the A levels... some of the topics taught in secondary school will be taught more in-depth in JC, so it might take more time for us to understand the basics."

Secondary 4 student Eugene Kan, 15, said he is glad some content-heavy topics have been removed from humanities subjects such as geography.

"It's good because we have a bit less to memorise, although the application of content to questions is another skill altogether," he said.


Parent Lim Wee Ming, 45, who works in the education enrichment sector, said: "Because of Covid-19, the schools can't go all out to teach the kids at home like they would in school, so it's fair to ease the curriculum load for children and teachers.

"It took some time to get used to home-based learning, and when it was prolonged, it was a bit stressful for parents."

His son, who is in Primary 6, enjoyed home-based learning. Still, the boy is happy that some of his least favourite topics in mathematics, such as "nets of solids", will not be tested.

Secondary 4 student Lee Jia Xin, 16, said the content removed from different subjects seemed to vary in terms of how much they were tested in previous years' O levels.

"For chemistry, organic chemistry covers quite a lot, so removing it is useful. But for additional maths, when we looked through the 10-year series, the common last topics removed don't seem to come out as often as other topics like differentiation and integration."


She added: "I can't feel the pressure of the O levels yet, because this year has been so weird. The mid-year exams, which were meant to be our checkpoint to gauge if we are catching up, were also removed.

"So I don't really know how to feel, although it's nice to know we're not the only students going through this experience. There are affected students not only in Singapore, but other countries as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2020, with the headline 'Reduction of national exam topics brings some relief to students'. Subscribe