SINGAPORE: The introduction of new subjects and the option to take Combined Humanities have led to a drop in the number of students taking Full Literature at the ’O’ Level, said Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah.
Last year, 3,000 students took the subject, down from 16,970 students 21 years ago.
Ms Indranee was responding to a question from Nominated MP Janice Koh on whether the ministry is concerned about the drop in numbers.
Ms Indranee said literature, history and geography are compulsory subjects for lower secondary students.
But at the upper secondary levels, some students may choose to take Combined Humanities, which includes the compulsory Social Studies and an option to take literature, history or geography.
She said this is the main factor for the decrease in the number of students taking Full Literature.
In addition, the increased education pathways have led to a wider variety of subjects for students to choose from.
She said the Ministry of Education (MOE) has provided multiple pathways for students to pursue their secondary education, and students can choose to attend junior college, polytechnic, the Institute of Technical Education or take up the Integrated Programme.
To support these multiple pathways, Ms Indranee said the ministry has introduced new subjects like drama, physical education, computing and economics.
Ms Indranee said: "The decline in the candidature for Full Literature over the last 20 years needs to be understood in the context of an education system responsive to a changing social context and which has offered increasingly more curricular choices for students over time.
In addition, Ms Indranee noted that there is a common perception that it is hard to obtain good grades for literature.
Bur Ms Indranee said MOE data shows that students’ performance in literature has been consistently good, and in fact went up from a 90 per cent pass rate in 2002 to 95 per cent in last year.
The percentage who obtained distinction also went up to 40 per cent in 2012, from 35 per cent in 2002.
Ms Koh asked if the ministry would consider publishing the enrolment rate for ’O’ Level subjects along with the pass and distinction rates to address the perception that the humanities are difficult to score in.
Ms Indranee replied: "We have moved away from ranking. I think we are trying to move away from this system of I compare with you, I compare with another person. I think we would want that if Literature was taken up, it must be taken up because you love the subject and it has much to offer. You shouldn’t take it up really because it is a question of my comparison with somebody else.
"But if the question is directed to what can we do to encourage students to take it up... the pass rates as are indicated do actually show good results. If we can put that out to show that it is not a subject to be feared only because it cannot be scored at, that, I think MOE will be happy to do."
With the decrease in students taking Full Literature, Non—Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong pointed out that this could result in fewer students majoring in Literature at the university level.
He asked if the ministry has had problems hiring good literature teachers as a result of the smaller pool of literature students.
Ms Indranee said there are currently sufficient literatures teachers, but added that if there is a need, the ministry will increase the numbers.
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