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