28 secondary schools to pilot full subject-based banding from 2020

28 secondary schools to pilot full subject-based banding from 2020

A total of 28 secondary schools will start piloting full subject-based banding next year, before it is rolled out to all schools by 2024. Tan Si Hui with the story.

SINGAPORE: A total of 28 secondary schools will start piloting full subject-based banding next year, before it is rolled out to all schools by 2024. 

The pilot schools will implement new ways of organising students from different academic courses into the same form class, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday (Sep 3).

They will also offer humanities subjects - geography, history and English literature - at a more demanding level from Secondary 2, for Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) students. 

Full subject-based banding was announced earlier this year to replace the existing system of streaming students into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) based on their PSLE results.

Under the new system, students will take subjects at a higher or lower level based on their strengths. 

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

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

ORGANISING CLASSES BASED ON CCA

Normal (Academic) student Ian Chan initially thought it would be difficult to mingle with his friends from other streams when Bowen Secondary conducted a trial where Secondary 2 students attended Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) lessons together.

But it turned out a lot easier than what he had imagined, especially since they were grouped according to their Co-Curricular Activities (CCA).

Ian, whose CCA is the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps, said: “Sometimes when we don't talk about school work, we're talking about drilling. And we get to know what each other's feelings are like, so that helps us to strengthen our friendship.

“As I got to know them better, I realised that they don't actually care about our streams.”

Bowen Secondary is one of the 28 schools that will start piloting aspects of full subject-based banding from 2020.

Bowen Secondary conducted a trial grouping Sec 2 students in their CCA groups
Bowen Secondary School conducted a trial grouping Secondary 2 students in their CCA groups.

"The pilot schools were selected based on their readiness to participate in the pilot. Factors considered include their involvement in the earlier phases of SBB (subject-based banding) and their experience in supporting different profiles of learners," said MOE. 

Students in these schools will take a set of subjects at a common level such as art, design and technology, as well as music. For other subjects, students will be grouped in classes according to the level at which they take each subject.

Bowen Secondary teacher Dorothy Lim said it took up the offer to be a pilot school because of its experience implementing subject-based banding since 2017.

“We were able to stretch some of our students from the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams," she said.

“By doing so, we can provide all our students a keener set of social emotional skills and on top of that, allow them to pursue subjects that are pitched at their level, to the best of their ability.”

Student Ian Chan participates in a CCA activity
Ian Chan (left) initially thought it would be difficult to mingle with friends from other streams.

In preparation for full subject-based banding, the school reorganised Secondary 2 students according to their CCAs for CCE lessons, and conducted a trial over five sessions in April.

Express student Nur Faraha Faeaz, who is part of the military band, said that the experience during the trial was initially “awkward” because she did not know a lot of people in her batch despite being in the same CCA.

“Sometimes we judge each other by which stream we are from. For example, I’m from Express and I don’t really know this person from Normal (Technical) and I feel a little bit uncomfortable," she added.

“But after getting to know them better, I feel a lot more comfortable and I get to know that despite their weaknesses, they also have strengths.”

Ms Lim said the main challenge encountered by teachers was catering to all students in the three different streams.

The colour guards are part of Bowen Secondary’s military band
The colour guards are part of Bowen Secondary School's military band and they were grouped in the same class as part of the trial.

The school has since given teachers learning opportunities with the ministry, teachers from other schools, as well as sessions for professional development.

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

While Bowen Secondary will not reorganise form classes according to CCAs next year, it will be conducting another trial for Secondary 1 students after the September school holidays.

The aim is to prepare at least half of the school’s teachers for the pilot next year when Secondary 1 students from different academic courses attend form classes together.

BUILDING MULTI-PURPOSE ROOMS FOR MORE FLEXIBILITY IN GROUPING STUDENTS

St Andrew’s Secondary School will also be piloting full subject-based banding next year.

Teacher Valerie Yeo said it was a “natural” move for them since the school was already conducting lessons using differentiated instruction.

Its Secondary 1 classes will have a mix of students from the different academic courses.

“We’re hoping to do a random mix, because that's what the society is like out there. So we are not going to specifically engineer because our goal is to provide authenticity," she said.

The school is also looking at building multi-purpose rooms to encourage more “versatility and flexibility” in grouping students.

St Andrew’s Secondary first implemented subject-based banding last year, and currently has a total of 52 Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) students under the new system.

Andre took three SBB subjects last year and made the jump to Express stream this year
Andre Khurana took three SBB subjects last year and made the jump to Express stream this year. 

Secondary 2 student Andre Khurana, who made the jump from Normal (Academic) to Express stream, did subject-based banding for three subjects last year.

He still keeps in contact with his Normal (Academic) friends and wants to pay it forward, after receiving support from his friends in the Express stream.

“Because of them helping me last year to get into Express, and helping me with research like history, geography or maths, I'll try to do the same for my Normal (Academic) friends so that they will have a better future," he said.

More secondary schools will progressively introduce aspects of full subject-based banding from 2022 to 2024. 

These are the 28 schools piloting full subject-based banding from 2020:

  1. Ang Mo Kio Secondary School
  2. Assumption English School
  3. Bedok Green Secondary School
  4. Bowen Secondary School
  5. Clementi Town Secondary School
  6. Deyi Secondary School
  7. Edgefield Secondary School
  8. Evergreen Secondary School
  9. Gan Eng Seng School
  10. Greendale Secondary School
  11. Jurong Secondary School
  12. Jurong West Secondary School
  13. Mayflower Secondary School
  14. Montfort Secondary School
  15. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Sec)
  16. Pei Hwa Secondary School
  17. Ping Yi Secondary School
  18. Queenstown Secondary School
  19. Riverside Secondary School
  20. St. Andrew's Secondary School
  21. St. Anthony's Canossian Secondary School
  22. St. Patrick's School
  23. Swiss Cottage Secondary School
  24. Temasek Secondary School
  25. West Spring Secondary School
  26. Whitley Secondary School
  27. Yuying Secondary School
  28. Zhenghua Secondary School
Source: CNA/zl(gs)

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