Schools to cut mid-year exams for several levels; Primary 1 and 2 pupils will not be graded

To encourage students to focus on their own learning, instead of the competition, report books will no longer state the student's ranking in his class and level. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mid-year examinations for Primary 3 and 5 and Secondary 1 and 3 students will be scrapped over the next three years, to move away from the narrow focus on grades and help students discover the joy of learning.

Currently, there are no examinations for Primary 1 and just final-year examinations for Primary 2. From 2019, all graded assessments and examinations at Primary 2 will also be removed to give young pupils two test-free years. Teachers will use qualitative descriptors to report on their pupils' learning.

And to stress the message that learning is not a competition, report books will no longer state the class and level ranking of a student at both primary and secondary levels. Marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as whole numbers, without decimal points, to reduce the excessive focus on marks.

The MOE will also adjust the academic criteria for awarding Edusave awards in Primary 1 and 2, focusing more on pupils' attitudes towards learning.

These changes, announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday (Sept 28), were described by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung as a step forward in improving the balance between the joy of learning and the rigour of education.

"We are at a strong position of rigour, and can afford to unwind a bit without undermining the performance outcomes," he told the media at a press conference.

The changes will also encourage teachers to explore different ways of teaching. He said: "On the ground, teachers are on a high-speed train... rushing, assessments, and preparing the students for exams... I think it's time to take a pause."

MOE said cutting the mid-year examinations will provide students with more time to adjust during the "key transition" years, where they have to study new subjects and deal with higher content rigour. It will free up about three weeks of curriculum time every two years.

In a speech to school heads earlier this week when he briefed them on the changes, Mr Ong urged educators to use the time well to use applied and inquiry-based learning. For example, to calculate area, the child can be given a formula. Alternatively, they can asked to brainstorm how they can find out the size of their school field and even taken down to the school field to measure it for themselves.

He said that the moves instituted over the last few years, from not naming the top Primary School Leaving Examination scorers, changing the PSLE scoring system and now cutting down on school examinations are all part of a new phase of change in Singapore's education system here - one he termed "Learn for Life".

"Learn for Life is a value, an attitude and a skill that our students need to possess, and it is fundamental in ensuring that education remains an uplifting force in society. It is what underpins the SkillsFuture movement. It also has to be a principal consideration in our school system," he said.

He added that it may be hard to predict the jobs of tomorrow but looking at the changes, educators know that students need to be resilient, adaptable and global in their outlook.

"They must leave the education system still feeling curious and eager to learn, for the rest of their lives. These traits are not just adjectives that we tick off, one by one. It is a fundamental shift in our mindset."

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