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What you need to know about Full SBB

Published Date: 12 June 2023 03:00 PM

News EdTalks

What you need to know about Full Subject-Based Banding

Come 2024, all secondary schools that have academic streams will implement Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) in place of streaming. What will be different for students entering Secondary 1? How will it affect the subjects they study, and the friendships they forge? Here, we answer some common questions.

Why did MOE introduce streaming in the first place?

The three streams – Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) – were introduced four decades ago as a form of curriculum customisation to reduce the number of students dropping out of secondary school. In the ’70s, about one-third of every cohort dropped out of school. Prior to streaming, the single curriculum for all students was found to be too rigid, causing many students to struggle with learning and lose interest in schooling. The three streams were put in place to allow learners with different academic abilities to learn at different paces. With streaming, the drop-out rate plunged dramatically to less than 4% by the end of the ’90s. It is now less
than 1%.

But there were downsides too. Some streams were perceived to be inferior to others, stigmatising the students in those streams, and making them feel discouraged about their abilities and prospects. Moreover, students have varying abilities across subjects and streaming was too blunt a tool to cater for such uneven strengths. For instance, one may be moderately good in most subjects, but really good in language. Another student could be good in most subjects, but struggle with Science. With streaming, students took all their subjects at the same level throughout secondary school, based on their PSLE Score, regardless of these individual traits.

How does Full SBB work?

Full SBB puts an end to the three streams, allowing students the flexibility to further customise their learning and take a range of subjects at different levels depending on their interests, aptitudes and learning needs.

Aspects of Full SBB have been implemented in phases since 2020. It provides the flexibility for students entering secondary schools to customise their learning at the level of individual subjects. They can take some subjects at a more demanding level based on their capabilities while offering other subjects at a less demanding level. They can also adjust their subject levels at appropriate junctures as they grow through their secondary school journey.

In addition, students will have the opportunity to interact with classmates of different profiles in mixed form classes when they enter secondary school (more on this below).

Isn't the Posting Group system just another system for streaming?

Under Full SBB, posting to secondary schools will be done through three Posting Groups based on students’ PSLE score ranges.

Unlike the streams, Posting Groups will not shape or define students’ identity, nor influence learning experiences and access to post-secondary pathways. At different points throughout their secondary school journey, there will be opportunities for students to adjust their subject levels, depending on their strengths, interests and learning needs.

Posting Groups will only be used to facilitate students’ entry to secondary school. They will:

  1. Guide the subject levels that they can take at the start of Secondary 1; and
  2. Ensure that schools continue to admit a diverse profile of students, and that students have access to a wide range of schools.

Without the Posting Groups, our secondary schools risk becoming more stratified according to PSLE performance.

Will all secondary schools implement Full SBB?

Full SBB is progressively being rolled out to all schools that are running the streaming system.

Schools that cater to specific student profiles, such as those that offer the Integrated Programme, or Crest Secondary School and Spectra Secondary School, will not implement Full SBB as they offer specialised programmes for their students.

How will students’ learning experiences differ under Full SBB?

At lower secondary levels, students will be placed in mixed form classes with classmates of different profiles and strengths. Students will spend about one-third of their curriculum time in their mixed form class and take a set of subjects at a common level. These subjects comprise Art, Character and Citizenship Education, Design and Technology, Food and Consumer Education, Music, and Physical Education.

Beyond this, students will take core subjects like English Language, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics, Science and Humanities at different subject levels according to their strengths and learning needs. They will be grouped in different classes based on this, which also allows them to interact with classmates from other form classes.

At upper secondary levels, on top of their core subjects, students may offer elective subjects at a subject level that cater to their strengths, interests and post-secondary aspirations.

Throughout their schooling years, students will have the flexibility to adjust their subject levels at appropriate junctures where feasible, based on their learning needs.

Visit here for more information about Full SBB, and learn about how it works through the eyes of a student here.