RELABELLING THE SINGAPORE EDUCATION SYSTEM TO AN INCLUSIVE ONE
The notion of streaming is no stranger to every Singaporean. Since 1980s, streaming has been in play and has evolved over the years.
As announced in March 2019 by the Education Ministry (MOE), the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams in secondary schools will be phased out and replaced by a new subject-based banding system in 2024.
This is one of the radical moves by MOE in creating a more holistic Singapore education system and placing lesser emphasis on academic grades. The new banding system will cater to the different strengths of students in various subjects and to eliminate the labels associated with each stream.
Every student is different
From subject interests to learning pace, no student is the same. Singaporeans have lamented about how streaming did not provide a fair reflection of everyone’s true abilities in different areas. The new banding system allows all students entering secondary 1 to have the same choices of subjects to take, while choosing the level of each subject based on their strength.
Furthermore, everyone will take a common examination and graduate with a common certificate. This is opposed to the current streaming system where students take different examinations and receive different certificates (i.e. ‘O’ Level and ‘N’ Level). By putting everyone at a level playing field suited to their own capabilities, this increases the chance for all to obtain the same opportunities to succeed.
Diversity in classrooms
The current streaming led to minimal contact between students of different streams as everyone were mostly in the same classroom. The only form of interaction they had with each other was during their co-curricular activities.
The new banding system allows for a various combination of subject levels taken by every student, thereby allowing students to meet more peers in school as they are not restricted to the same classroom and classmates. When students interact with more people of different characters and backgrounds, they will be able to forge more meaningful friendships with other students.
Moreover, this diversity will help to eradicate stigmatisation as students will now have a better understanding and perception of each other. This is because they are not shrouded by societal perceptions of the different streams as they personally interact with their peers, giving them a clearer picture of other students.
It was never the intent for streaming to become a form of discrimination amongst students. As no policy is perfect, streaming had to be fine-tuned after its flaws are manifested, leading to the new banding system. With various labels associated to the respective streams, the new banding systems aims to remove this stigmatisation.
Stigmatisation is the result of society’s response to things around them and how they perceive things. If Singaporeans are able to see the good in the new banding system of fitting to the individual needs in learning of every student instead of seeing it as a segregation between the fast and slow learners, the system will be able to pose as a more inclusive education for everyone.
As Albert Einstein has said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” With this new move to a new system in defining success, it is with great hope that the Singapore education system will continue to create more opportunities for its students to excel and to make education a more holistic one.