Government to end current system of secondary school streaming: What you need to know

Government to end current system of secondary school streaming: What you need to know

SINGAPORE: Streaming as we know it will soon be a thing of the past, with the Government on Tuesday (Mar 5) announcing major changes to the secondary school system.

Under these changes, secondary school students will not be posted into the current Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) streams, but will instead be able to take a mix-and-match approach and study subjects at different levels according to their abilities.

READ: Current approach to streaming in secondary schools to be phased out by 2024

O-Level and N-Level exams are also set to be scrapped, and be replaced by one common national exam instead.

Here’s what you need to know:


At the moment, secondary school students go into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) streams. These will be scrapped and students will study under a subject-based banding system instead, which means they can take subjects at different levels according to their abilities.

It will be similar to how students taking A-Levels study subjects at H1, H2 and H3 levels. Secondary school students will take a combination of subjects at three different levels – General 1, General 2 and General 3.

READ: From reducing drop-out rates to slaying a 'sacred cow': How streaming has evolved over the years


The changes aim to bring a greater degree of customisation, with students able to study more subjects at different levels, as well as subjects that previously might have been offered in another stream.

Streaming can also negatively affect students' self-perception. Announcing the changes in Parliament, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke about the downsides to the current streaming system.

"Entering a stream that is considered ‘lower’ can carry a certain stigma that becomes self-fulfilling and self-limiting," he said. "Students can develop a mindset where they tell themselves, ‘I am only a Normal stream student, so this is as good as I can be'. It becomes self-fulfilling.”


The changes don’t just stop at the purely academic, but could affect how form classes are organised as well – bringing an opportunity to “reshape the social environment in schools”, according to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who announced the changes in Parliament.

He gave the example of Boon Lay Secondary, which organises form classes by Co-Curricular Activities, as well as Edgefield Secondary, which has this year re-organised form classes to include students from all three streams.

“The pioneering practices such as in Boon Lay and Edgefield will become the norm," said Mr Ong.

READ: Why this school did away with traditional form classes


Streaming will be replaced by subject-based banding by 2024. About 25 schools will implement full subject-based banding from next year, with more schools joining subsequently.

Students entering Secondary 1 in 2024 – this year’s Primary 2 cohort – will be the first full batch of students to be banded according to subjects.

They will continue to be admitted across the three PSLE scoring bands, but once in secondary school they will be able to take a combination of subjects across different bands.

READ: Scope for specialised secondary schools to offer more subject options


GCE O- and N-Level exams will be consolidated into a new common national exam and certification framework, and students will receive a single national certification reflecting the level at which each subject is taken.

This takes effect when the 2024 Secondary 1 cohort reaches Secondary 4. 

Singapore and Cambridge will co-brand the new certificate as they are "strong international brand names in education", which will "enhance recognition" and its value.

Source: CNA/nc