What you should know about the different secondary options as a parent by Dr Boon

Has your child finished the PSLE and is about to choose their Secondary School? This important decision requires strategy, and knowledge about the new and revamped PSLE grading system based on Achievement levels, in order to choose the best and most suitable school for your child to learn in for the next 4-5 years. Dr Boon, our director here at Think Teach Academy, breaks this down and more in our newest blogpost.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to all Pri­ma­ry 6 stu­dents for com­plet­ing the PSLE 2023! In 2016, the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion (MOE) announced plans to revise the approach to the PSLE assess­ment, shift­ing away from the tra­di­tion­al T‑score Scor­ing Sys­tem to the 1Achieve­ment Lev­el (AL) Band­ing Sys­tem. This was in tan­dem with a series of reforms over more recent years: 2removal of some exam­i­na­tions, 3Sub­ject-Based Band­ing (SBB) in Sec­ondary Schools and even the spon­ta­neous 4reduc­tion in con­tent and scope of exam­i­na­tions dur­ing Covid-19 (for stu­dents’ men­tal well­be­ing).

With these recent fine-tun­ing poli­cies and changes, MOE HQ has sent a clear sig­nal that as a nation, we are mov­ing away from the over empha­sis of aca­d­e­m­ic results and focus­ing more on sup­port­ing stu­dents to dis­cov­er their strengths and inter­ests. This is in con­flu­ence with the 5elim­i­na­tion of nam­ing top stu­dents and rank­ing schools as a prac­tice since 2013.

AL Banding System: One Year On

How is the AL Band­ing Sys­tem dif­fer­ent from the T‑score, and what are the impli­ca­tions?

The tra­di­tion­al T‑score sys­tem, that many Sin­ga­pore­an par­ents had under­gone, was a reflec­tion of how well a stu­dent per­formed aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly rel­a­tive to their peers. There was bell-curve mod­er­a­tion in place, and a high­ly com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment was cre­at­ed with the nam­ing of top stu­dents, rank­ing of top schools and schools that did not per­form so well.

The AL Band­ing Sys­tem strives to reduce this focus on aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance at such fine lev­els, and instead places stu­dents in bands (based on mark ranges). This has three direct impli­ca­tions in the Sec­ondary School (S1) Post­ing process and indi­rect­ly influ­ences how stu­dents and par­ents should go about select­ing their sec­ondary schools:

  • More stu­dents will have the same PSLE Score
  • More schools will have sim­i­lar cut-off points (COP)
  • Stu­dents will have a wider range of schools to choose from

Secondary School Posting (S1) Exercise 2023

Post­ing Cri­te­ri­on, Tie-Break­ers, High­er Chi­nese Lan­guage (HCL)

The S1 post­ing sys­tem fol­lows the fol­low­ing order:

  • Aca­d­e­m­ic Mer­it (PSLE AL Score)
  • Order of School Choice
  • Vacan­cies Avail­able at Select­ed Schools

The student’s PSLE Score remains the first cri­te­ria: a stu­dent with a high­er PSLE score will be con­sid­ered first for their cho­sen school. As men­tioned ear­li­er, more stu­dents will have the same PSLE Score. This means that the Order of School Choice will play a larg­er role (com­pared to the T‑score sys­tem) for stu­dents try­ing to get into the school that they pre­fer. When con­tend­ing for the last few vacan­cies in a school, the tie-break­er sys­tem will kick-in:

  • Cit­i­zen­ship (Sin­ga­pore­an Cit­i­zen, Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent, Inter­na­tion­al Stu­dent)
  • Order of School Choice
  • Ran­domised Bal­lot­ing

Stu­dents who do not get a place in any of their select­ed schools will be placed in a school with remain­ing vacan­cies based on their PSLE Score and res­i­den­tial address. Stu­dents tak­ing HCL with a PSLE Score <15 will be eli­gi­ble for post­ing advan­tage to 6SAP schools.

Secondary School Courses

Course Eli­gi­bil­i­ty

PSLE ScoreCourse Place­ment
21–22Express or Normal(Academic) Option
25Normal(Academic) or Normal(Technical) Option

For stu­dents not eli­gi­ble for any of the cours­es above, they can retake the PSLE or progress on to more hands-on and expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing at Assump­tion Path­way School (APS) or North­Light School (NLS).

Sub­ject-based Band­ing (SBB)

With the imple­men­ta­tion of SBB, stu­dents in N(A) or N(T) streams can choose to take on cer­tain sub­jects at the more demand­ing lev­el. By 2024, Full SBB will be imple­ment­ed, which will offer more sub­ject options.

Secondary School Options

In addi­tion to the Sec­ondary School Cours­es above, it is also equal­ly impor­tant to con­sid­er the dis­tinc­tive strengths that each school has to offer. These include:

  • Applied Learn­ing (ALP) and Learn­ing for Life (LLP) Pro­grammes
  • Inte­grat­ed-Pro­gramme
  • Direct-School Admis­sion-Sec­ondary (DSA-Sec)
  • Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion Needs (SEN)
  • Co-cur­ric­u­lar Activ­i­ties (CCAs) & Strate­gic-Part­nered CCAs (SP-CCAs)
  • MOE Lan­guage, Arts & Music Pro­grammes
  • Loca­tion & dis­tance

Here is a video of a webi­nar con­duct­ed by Dr Boon last year on the 6 key con­sid­er­a­tions in select­ing a sec­ondary school after com­plet­ing the PSLE exam­i­na­tion that con­tin­ues to be rel­e­vant this year.

A Note About the Author

Dr. Teo Boon Heng is a Direc­tor at Think Teach Acad­e­my. He leads the Aca­d­e­m­ic Tribe in the man­age­ment, plan­ning and exe­cu­tion of our Think Smart, Teach Smart approach across our pro­grammes.

Pri­or to join­ing Think Teach Acad­e­my, Dr. Boon devel­oped much pas­sion and gained con­sid­er­able expe­ri­ence in acad­e­mia, with his last role as Head of Schol­ar Devel­op­ment at NUS Grad­u­ate School. He was award­ed the pres­ti­gious NUS Grad­u­ate School for Inte­gra­tive Sci­ences & Engi­neer­ing (NGS) PhD Schol­ar­ship for research of pas­si­vat­ed con­tact solar cells sup­port­ed by the Nation­al Research Foun­da­tion, Prime Min­is­ter’s Office Sin­ga­pore.

Pri­or to his post­grad­u­ate stud­ies, Dr. Boon served as a naval offi­cer with the Repub­lic of Sin­ga­pore Navy after grad­u­at­ing from Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don with a Mas­ter of Engi­neer­ing in Mate­ri­als Sci­ence & Nuclear Engi­neer­ing. He is also an alum­ni of Anglo-Chi­nese School (Inde­pen­dent) and a mem­ber of the Roy­al School of Mines, Unit­ed King­dom.

1 — https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/10-things-know-about-changes-psle-scoring-system

2 — https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/no-more-mid-year-exams-all-primary-and-secondary-school-students-next-year

3 — https://www.moe.gov.sg/microsites/psle-fsbb/full-subject-based-banding/main.html

4 — https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/moe-reduce-scope-exams-2021-hire-more-school-counsellors-ensure-students-well-being

5 — https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/not-naming-top-psle-scorers-to-emphasise-holistic-development-heng

6 — https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/parliamentary-replies/20210510-sap-schools

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