Singapore abolishes school exams

In what Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung described as a move towards improving the balance between the joy of learning and education standards, the island city-state has embarked on a plan to abolish mid-year examinations for Primary 3 and 5 pupils, as well as for Secondary 1 and 3 students in a span of three years from now.

As part of the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) efforts to veer away from a narrow focus on grades and help children discover the joy of learning, the first two years of primary school will also be test-free from next year, Straits Times (ST) reported.

Learning is not a competition, Singapore’s education officials maintain, and such being the case report books will no longer include the class and level rankings at both primary and secondary levels, ST further said in its recent report.

Moreover, even aggregate scores, used for post O-level postings, will not be reflected at the lower secondary level to avoid preoccupation with grades.

“We are at a strong position of rigor and can afford to unwind a bit without undermining the performance outcomes,” Ong was quoted in the ST report as saying.

Besides, he said, Singapore students already rate highly in international rankings.

The overhaul of the educational system will also allow teachers more space to explore new ways of making learning enjoyable and lasting, said Ong.

“On the ground, teachers are on a high-speed train… rushing, assessments and preparing the students for exams… I think it is time to take a pause,” he was also quoted as saying.

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

But not everybody seemed happy with what the top education official termed as the “Learn for Life” shift.

ST reported that some parents were concerned over the changes as report books will no longer show rankings and mean scores.

Which is why, Ong said, MOE needs to “bring the most important stakeholder – parents – on board” and convince them that the changes do not compromise on academic standards.

Staff Report

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