No more discrimination based on rankings in schools, orders Singapore Govt
No more discrimination based on rankings in schools, orders Singapore Govt | Credit: Citinewsroom

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No more discrimination based on rankings in schools, orders Singapore Govt

Oct 18, 2018

The Singapore government recently abolished the student ranking system. According to the country’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, the move would hopefully show students that ‘learning is not a competition’. The position of a student in examinations will not be marked in primary and secondary school report books from next year onwards. Exams will also be dropped for younger students, while older students will undergo a de-emphasis on individual subject grades.

Report books will not just stop showing a student’s position in relation to class or cohort but other information will be changed as well. The information to be dropped includes:

  • Class and level mean
  • Minimum and maximum marks
  • Pass/fail for end-of-year result
  • Overall total marks
  • Underlining and/or colouring of failing marks
  • L1R5 (English plus five relevant subjects), L1R4, EMB3 (English, Maths, best three subjects) and EMB1 for lower secondary levels
  • Mean subject grades

According to CNR, the information that is set to disappear from report cards include minimum and maximum marks in a subject, the class average, highlighting of fail grades, and overall total marks.

According to the WEF report, the Ministry Education is planning several changes in the system, including no longer recording the overall pass/fail grade at the end of the academic year.

From next year all examinations for Primary 1 and 2 pupils will also be removed, and whatever forms of assessment they have will not count towards an overall grade.

As from next year, pupils in Primary 1 and 2 will no longer sit for any examinations. Any assessment scores they have for class placement will have little to do with their final grading. This, however, does not mean class teachers will not measure how young pupils and older students perform. Teachers will use interactive sessions, homework and class quizzes to gather information on students’ learning processes.

In an address to some 1,700 school leaders earlier this week, Mr Ong said: “I know that ‘coming in first or second’, in class or level, has traditionally been a proud recognition of a student’s achievement. But removing these indicators is for a good reason, so that the child understands from young that learning is not a competition, but a self-discipline they need to master for life.

For older students in primary schools and secondary schools, marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as a whole number, without decimal points – to reduce the focus on academic scores. Parents will continue to receive information about their child’s progress in school during parent-teacher meetings.

Reportedly, MOE said that the teachers will encourage learning through discussion, homework and quizzes. Teachers will use "qualitative descriptors" instead of marks and grades to evaluate students' performance.

“Notwithstanding, the report book should still contain some form of yardstick and information to allow students to judge their relative performance, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses,” Ong Ye Kung said. 

According to a 2012 survey of worldwide education called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Singapore ranked number two in math worldwide, only Shanghai-China ranked higher. Singapore was also the third-highest performing country in science and reading, after Shanghai-China and Hong Kong-China.

The U.S. ranked 27th in math, 17th in reading and 20th in science despite spending more than all but four countries per student. PISA generates their rankings via a triennial international survey which tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students around the world. 

Considering the fact that ranking system, assessments and homework have always put pressure on the students as well as the parents, this move is welcomed by many countries. This method can carry sufficient information to allow students to judge their relative performance, and assess their strengths and weaknesses.