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18 March 2004

REFINEMENTS TO PRIMARY SCHOOL STREAMING

 

1.                   The Ministry of Education will be making the following refinements to Primary School Streaming, to give schools greater flexibility to organise and band their pupils to achieve the best educational outcomes:

a.                  The distinction between the EM1 and EM2 streams will be removed.  Schools will have the autonomy to decide on how best to band their pupils by ability, in ways that add the most educational value.

b.                  From this year, schools will also be given the flexibility to develop their own end-of-year Primary 4 examinations to identify pupils who are capable of studying Higher Mother Tongue (HMTL), or are best served by the foundational programme offered in EM3.

These changes were announced by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ag Minister for Education, at the Committee of Supply Debate 2004. 

2.                   The approach of customising a pupil’s education according to his ability, i.e. ability-based streaming, is fundamentally sound and will remain.  EM3 will remain a distinct course, as our less academically inclined pupils benefit from being taught separately, using a different curriculum and teaching approach.

Background

3.                  Currently at the end of Primary 4, pupils are channelled into the following streams:

a.                  EM1:            pupils do Higher Mother Tongue Language (HMTL) in addition to English, MTL, Maths and Science.

b.                  EM2:            pupils do English, MTL, Maths and Science.

c.                   EM3:            pupils do Foundation English, Basic MTL, and Foundation Maths.  They do Foundation Science but are not examined for it.

4.                  EM1 and EM2 are essentially the same course of study, with the difference being that pupils in EM1 take HMTL.  EM3 is a different course of study.

5.                  There is already an overlap in abilities of students taking EM1 and EM2.  20% of P5 students are in EM1.  However, almost half of them are students who were first recommended by schools for EM2, but whose parents chose EM1.  The enhanced flexibility for students to opt for HMTL at the primary level[1]will further reduce differences in abilities between those in the EM1 and EM2 streams[2]. 

Refinements to Primary School Streaming

6.                  MOE will do away with the distinction between EM1 and EM2 streams, so as to provide schools the flexibility to organise their classes in ways that add the best educational value. 

7.                  The approach of customising a pupil’s education according to his ability is fundamentally sound and will remain.  There will be no change at the primary-level to the Gifted Education Programme, which provides different curriculum and teaching methods for exceptionally bright pupils.  EM3 will also remain a distinct course of study, focusing on foundational knowledge.   Our less academically inclined pupils benefit from being taught separately, using a different curriculum and teaching approach. 

Flexibility in Primary 4 Examinations

8.                  With the flexibility given to schools in how they organise P5-6 classes, MOE will also allow schools greater discretion in determining the best way to assess their pupils in P4. 

9.                  Schools currently recommend a pupil’s stream in P5 based on semestral assessments and a P4 end-of-year streaming examination.  The P4 streaming examinations are held in October each year to allow time for the processing of examination results and allocation of classes.  Schools select examination questions from a national item bank maintained by MOE. 

10.              With the merger of EM1 and EM2 streams, MOE will give schools the flexibility to develop their own P4 end-of-year examinations to identify pupils who are capable of studying HMTL, or are best served by the foundational course offered in EM3.  The P4 end-of-year examinations would be like other school-based examinations.  Schools can develop their own assessment items or choose to select questions from the national item bank.  They will also have the flexibility to schedule the examinations later in the year along with the other school-based examinations.

Implementation Timeframe

11.              The merger of EM1 and EM2 streams could take place immediately where practical[3].   Similarly, schools will be given the flexibility to develop their own end-of-year P4 examinations from this year.  MOE will work with schools to ensure smooth implementation of these changes.

Conclusion

12.              The refinements to primary school streaming continues to be grounded in customising a pupil’s education according to his ability. 


 


[1]Announced by MOE on 9 Jan 2004.

[2]Any pupil can opt to take HMTL in P5.  In addition, pupils can now continue to offer HMTL and remain in the EM1 stream, so long as they have a band 2 in MTL at the end of P5.  Previously, pupils had to obtain at least band 2 in EL and MTL, and band 3 for all remaining subjects.  The easing of requirements will lead to a significant increase in students remaining in the EM1 stream in P6.

[3]It is anticipated that with the school year already in session, most schools would only put the changes in place at the end of the year. Schools would have the autonomy to decide on their own school’s implementation timeframe, taking into consideration the need to minimise disruption to the schools’ programmes and activities.



 
 

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