The announcement made by Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong at Sunday’s National Day Rally that Normal stream students who do well in certain subjects for their Primary School Leaving Examination will be able to study them at Express level from Secondary 1 receives strong support from Principals interviewed by The Straits Times.
The initiative, said PM Lee, aims to create flexibility in secondary schools for students to tailor their education to their abilities and development and for secondary school students who are strong in some subjects but not others to build on their strengths, and learn each subject at a pace appropriate to them.
Principals interviewed said allowing Normal stream students to take subjects that they are good in at the Express level right from the get-go will boost their morale by removing the labelling associated with the Normal stream and encouraged students to excel in subjects that they are good at.
Normal stream students are currently only allowed to take Express subjects at Secondary 3, following an assessment by teachers the year before.
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Principals welcome move for Normal stream students
ALLOWING Normal stream students to take subjects that they are good in at the Express level right from the get-go will help them do better for their O levels, said principals yesterday.
They were reacting to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement in Sunday’s National Day Rally, that Normal stream students who do well in certain subjects for their Primary School Leaving Examination will be able to study them at Express level from Secondary 1.
Currently, they are allowed to take Express subjects only at Sec 3, following an assessment by teachers the year before.
PM Lee said the new move will give students the flexibility to learn each subject at their own pace. “You can build on your strengths, and build up your confidence, your pride, and then you can go further and fulfil your potential,” he said.
“If we identify the correct students at Sec 1, it will help them to cope better,” said Ang Mo Kio Secondary principal Abdul Mannan.
With the same grounding as Express students from the start, Normal stream students will be better equipped when taking the O-level exams for these subjects in Sec 4. Getting a good enough grade will then free up more time for their weaker subjects in Sec 5, said Mr Lim Yu Kee, principal of Bedok Green Secondary.
Critically, the change will also boost students’ morale.
“No matter what you say, many students are affected by labelling,” said Mr Abdul. “By allowing Normal stream students to take subjects at O levels, we are letting them know that if you’re good in a subject, it doesn’t matter what stream you are in. We will let you do it.”
Currently, about 20 out of 80 Normal (Academic) students at Ang Mo Kio Secondary are studying mathematics and mother tongue at the Express level.
“Our Normal (Academic) students usually get B3 or better for their O-level subjects, and if they want to improve the grade, they can redo the exam when in Sec 5,” said Mr Abdul.
An Education Ministry spokesman said that on average, about 4,000, or one-third of each Sec 4 Normal (Academic) cohort, take O-level subjects. About 40 per cent of each Sec 1 cohort enter the Normal stream. Those in the Normal (Academic) course usually finish the O-level exams in Sec 5, while the Normal (Technical) course prepares them for the Institute of Technical Education.
Bedok Green Sec 3 student Gary Lou, 15, was offered the chance to study mathematics at the Express stream this year.
The Normal (Academic) student said he did not feel challenged by maths lessons in the past. Now, the questions are harder but more stimulating, he said.
MP Baey Yam Keng, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, called the move significant.
He said: “It lets students learn individual subjects at a pace more appropriate to them. Or else when they are forced to learn subjects at a slower pace even though they have a strength in them, they will feel bored.”
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