A series of changes to Singapore's education system were revealed during the Ministry of Education's (MOE) debate on its budget on Tuesday (March 7).
Announcing its inclusive vision of "many paths, new possibilities" in Parliament, MOE said it remains committed to helping everyone follow their strengths and passions by offering multiple paths and creating opportunities for all.
Here is a quick look at the key changes.
1. EXPANSION OF DIRECT SCHOOLS ADMISSION (DSA) SCHEME
From 2018, all secondary schools will have the option to reserve up to 20 per cent of their O-levels programme places for pupils entering via the DSA scheme.
The selection process for the scheme, which was started in 2004 to allow schools to take in students based on their talents and not just solely on grades, will be refined to better recognise specific talents and move away from recognising strong general academic abilities.
Application for the scheme will also be done through a central MOE portal by 2019.
2. MORE SECONDARY SCHOOL PLACES RESERVED FOR NON-AFFILIATED STUDENTS
From 2019, 20 per cent of places in 27 secondary schools that are affiliated to primary schools will be reserved for those who do not benefit from affiliation priority.
Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said the move is to ensure that schools are open to all students, regardless of their backgrounds or connections.
The 20 per cent figure, according to MOE, takes reference from the ministry's policy (introduced in 2014) of reserving 40 places for students with no prior connections to the school during the Primary 1 registration exercise.
3. SUBJECT-BASED BANDING FOR ALL SECONDARY SCHOOLS
The pilot scheme, which was launched at 12 secondary schools in 2014 to allow Secondary 1 students from the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams to take subjects at a higher academic level, will be expanded to all schools by 2018.
"We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach... For students with uneven strengths across their subjects, they can stretch themselves in their areas of strength through subject-based banding," said Mr Ng.
Should the students perform well in the subjects after starting Secondary 1, they may be offered the chance to take them at a higher level.
4. INCREASED APTITUDE-BASED ADMISSIONS AT TERTIARY LEVEL
From the next academic year, the intake allowance for polytechnics' Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) will be increased from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent. This means an estimated 500 more places will be made available.
This comes after strong interest was shown among students entering the polytechnics this year, revealed Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
The exercise, which was introduced in 2016 to replace the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise, allows students to secure a place in a diploma programme of their choice using course-specific talents and interests, even before they sit the O-level exams or ITE final exams.
The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will also start the EAE this year. It will admit 15 per cent of the intake.
The ITE EAE will replace the ITE Special College Admissions Scheme (SCAS), which considers students with talents and achievements in areas such as sports and arts, and the Special Admissions Exercise (SAE), for those with course-related aptitudes applying for selected Higher Nitec courses.
5. NEW TECHNICAL DIPLOMA FOR ITE GRADUATES
The new diploma under the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme will be awarded by ITE. Compared to a polytechnic diploma, the key difference is in the mode of learning - it will be apprentice-based.
It is part of MOE's push to make students' transition between study and work as seamless as possible.
For a start, the diploma will be introduced in sectors identified based on industry demand and the presence of strong apprenticeship partners. These sectors include security system engineering, rehabilitation therapy, offshore and marine engineering, and mechanical and electrical services.
Changes to DSA: Academic ability tests to be scrapped
Students who excel in fields outside of general academia will stand a better chance of getting into their desired secondary schools, thanks to changes to the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme.
All secondary schools can admit up to 20 per cent of their non-Integrated Programme places via DSA from next year, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said during his Committee of Supply debate speech yesterday.
"With this expansion, students can better access schools with suitable programmes via DSA to nurture their strengths, talents and interests," he said.
Students may be admitted via the scheme before they take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) if their specific talents are a good fit for the schools' niche programmes, such as sports, the arts, and specific academic strengths such as mathematics and languages.
Mr Ng also said the general academic ability tests will be discontinued from next year.
Schools can instead conduct their selection with a range of assessment tools, including interviews, trials, auditions and subject tests. They can also consider the applicant's overall portfolio and achievements.
This is aimed at bringing DSA's focus back to recognising and nurturing talents.
Some schools use the general academic ability tests to assess students' general reasoning and problem-solving skills in DSA selection, which Mr Ng said "put undue focus on general academic activities".
Over the years, the scheme, which started in 2004, has been criticised for deviating from its original intentions of looking beyond grades, with some calling it a "back door" for students to gain entry into popular schools with well-established programmes.
But Mr Ng stressed that it should not be seen as an entry ticket to popular schools.
He said: "Schools will focus on identifying students with specific talents and move away from recognising strong general academic abilities.
"Students with strong general academic abilities would already be able to qualify for the school with their PSLE results."
Child psychologist Dr Carol Balhetchet told The New Paper yesterday: "The DSA is like a relief button and parents may be a bit more relaxed about academics. They will still, however, look for schools that have developed what they think are the best programmes.
"The DSA is sometimes a shortcut for admissions to the best schools, and this mindset will not change overnight."
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "There is good intention underlying the DSA, which recognises a broader range of talents and aptitudes... for purpose of admission."
Parents and school principals have welcomed the changes.
Mr Ng said the number of DSA applications increased by 1,000 last year.About 2,800 pupils were successful in getting a place via the DSA.
Mr Ng said about half of them were admitted into the Integrated Programme.
He also announced the streamlining of the DSA application process. From the 2019 exercise, students can submit applications through a centralised online application portal using a common form.
Schools will outline their DSA categories and the selection criteria on their websites.
Currently, students have to apply to individual schools, which have their own application processes.
Students to get slew of choices
A raft of changes will be made to the education system, as part of efforts to emphasise talent and skills over grades and ensuring secondary schools are open to students of all backgrounds.
At the tertiary level, aptitude-based admissions will also be ramped up, with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to be allowed to admit students based on talents and other achievements.
Speaking at the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Committee of Supply debate yesterday, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng outlined his ministry’s plans, which include a revamped Direct School Admissions (DSA) scheme.
From next year, all secondary schools will be allowed to admit up to 20 per cent of their Secondary One intake under the scheme. This is an increase from the current 5 per cent cap for schools with distinctive programmes, and 10 per cent cap for autonomous schools. Independent schools will not see an increase as they already have a 20 per cent limit.
Schools will also have to do away with general academic ability tests as part of their selection process, with Mr Ng noting: “While they allow for a comparison of students’ abilities, they also inadvertently put undue focus on general academic abilities, rather than identifying specific strengths.”
Schools can continue to screen and select students based on interviews, trials, auditions and subject tests. They can also consider the applicant’s overall portfolio and achievements.
This change in intake, however, will not apply to schools offering the six-year Integrated Programme (IP) leading to the International Baccalaureate certificate or specialised independent schools such as NUS High School of Maths and Science — they will continue to have full discretion in admission.
The changes aim to bring the DSA, introduced in 2004, back to its original objective of recognising and admitting students based on talent in areas such as sports and arts, rather than just Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores.
Announcing a review of the DSA last year, Mr Ng had said there has been “some unevenness” in how different schools select their DSA students. The scheme has been criticised as another way for schools to admit students based on academic excellence.
Stressing the intent of the scheme yesterday, Mr Ng noted that some parents have pointed out that students with strong general academic abilities would already be able to qualify for the school with their PSLE results. “DSA should not be seen as an entry ticket to popular schools,” he said.
Meanwhile, to give students with strengths in different subjects the scope to challenge themselves academically, all secondary schools offering Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses from next year will allow students to take subjects at a higher level from Secondary One.
This is if they perform well at the PSLE or in school exams, and the subjects are limited to English, Math, Science and Mother Tongue languages.
And from 2019, all affiliated secondary schools will have to reserve 20 per cent of their Secondary One places for incoming students who do not have any affiliation priority — similar to the policy introduced in primary schools after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned of top schools becoming “closed circles” in his 2013 National Day Rally.
Currently, 27 secondary schools offer students from their associated primary schools priority in the Secondary One posting exercise. In recent years, most schools took in more than 20 per cent of affiliated students each year, according to the MOE, adding that only six to eight schools take in less than that figure.
While affiliation has its merits, Mr Ng stressed the need to ensure that “our schools are open to all students, regardless of their backgrounds or connections”.
At the tertiary level, ITE will be able to admit 15 per cent of its annual intake through a new aptitude-based admissions scheme from next year’s intake. Currently, only 3 per cent of ITE’s annual intake comes from two discretionary admissions exercises: The Special College Admissions Scheme and the Special Admissions Exercise. They will be dissolved, replaced by a new Early Admissions Exercise (EAE), which was introduced for the polytechnics last year.
Under the ITE EAE, secondary-school students can apply for conditional admission to Nitec and Higher Nitec courses before their N- and O-Level examinations.
One-third of ITE courses — 36 courses — will be allowed to admit up to half of their students based on aptitude-centric assessments. These are courses where “a range of qualities beyond academic grades, and where passion for the field is especially important”, such as nursing, and design and media, said the MOE.
For polytechnics, the allowed intake under EAE will be raised from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent, totalling an additional 500-plus places.
Noting that times have changed, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said during his speech that the younger generation do not want to be on “a treadmill constantly chasing after grades”.
“We are perhaps at the starting line of a time of change and transformation. It is up to us today, to create these multiple paths and new opportunities, which will take us to multiple places, yet arrive at a common future — a Singapore of many talents, on a united yet multi-faceted journey of one people and one country,” he said.
Just curious tho, for those International Students for aiming to join Singapore JCs, what admission tests they are required to take?
I have a cousin who plans to study A-Levels into JC1 next year.
Currently in Malaysia, in Secondary 5 studying for Malaysian SPM (O-Level equivalent).
Because he's applying not through an agent. So not really about the process.
Also does finding the JC's principal help? Or just emailing them only?
And what's the tuition fees for those International Students studying in Singapore without a scholarship?
write in (email) to the school directly
school fees information