The announcements made by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung is likely to be among the biggest policy changes in this year's budget debates.
At the Ministry of Education (MOE) Committee of Supply debates, Ong announced that 25 pilot secondary schools will implement a new system next year called Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) with more taking this on in subsequent years.
By 2024, the first batch of students under Full SBB will graduate with a common certificate co-branded by Singapore and Cambridge.
In this four-year period, the Full SBB system will also be rolled out to all other secondary schools, with everyone on board by 2024.
Ong: "I should have done G2 English"
In his speech, Ong shared his personal story on his struggles with English when he was young.
Growing up in a Chinese speaking family, Ong read only Chinese comics and entered Primary One without being able to speak or read much English.
Ong shared that he figured out phonics in Primary Three and could read the sentences, but hardly knew what they meant.
Ong's struggles continued in secondary school,
"In secondary school, my English standard was what my classmates would describe as ‘cannot swim.’ This affected other language dependent subjects such as History and Geography.
I passed by memorising large chunks of text, which I could regurgitate during examinations."
Ong said that he would probably have been placed in a Learning Support Programme in Primary School.
He noted that it would have been better for him to be placed in a less demanding band for English, which would give him time to pick up the basics, and then upgrade to more demanding band if he met the standard.
In fact, Ong said that he would have done G2 English, the current secondary school equivalent of Normal Academic English.
Ong: "Customise education, and minimise effect of labelling and stigmatisation"
Ong concluded that while there are some students who are very strong in every academic subject, most, like himself, have uneven strengths, and specific weaknesses.
Hence, the challenge of Singapore's education system is to cater to the strengths and weaknesses of students, and to give them time to blossom at different points in their lives.
Ong said that the main purpose of this change to full Subject-Based Banding in secondary schools by 2024 is to help MOE to customise education for students, while minimising the effect of labelling and stigmatisation.
Ong concluded that MOE's aim is to develop a child with the knowledge that the pace of his or her learning changes over time, all the way to adulthood.
Top photo screenshot via Gov.sg Youtube