MOE scraps secondary school banding system and cuts awards
The Education Ministry is scrapping secondary school banding as part of its efforts to ensure that 'every school is a good school'.
This means secondary schools will no longer be grouped according to their performance in the previous year's GCE 'O' Level results.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced this at his ministry's annual Work Plan Seminar this morning.
The ministry will also reduce the number of school awards given out.
Instead, it will focus on developing the areas of strength of each school.
The banding system categorises secondary schools into nine bands.
Band one consists of top schools, with a (an L1B5) cut-off point of below 11.
Mr Heng said the system was designed to motivate schools to attain higher standards but it has now served its purpose.
The Ministry will also remove accolades such as the Masterplan of Awards (MoA),
And the number of performance measures in the School Excellence Model will be halved.
"Both have led to much administrative work for schools, and fuelled public perception that schools are chasing awards. Having studied this for over a year now, we will make a major change.We will instead have a clear, simple framework to achieve and recognise school excellence."
The ministry will instead focus on recognising best practices in five areas, including teaching and learning as well as students' all- round development.
Educators, MediaCorp spoke with welcomed these changes.
Balamurugan Krishnasamy is the Principal of Tampines Secondary School.
His school excels in the performing arts.
"When you remove the banding, you provide a more level-playing field for schools that are may not be in a (good) band, but are doing very good work. So it's about providing information, as pointed out earlier on, so parents can make more informed choices, and not just base it on the academic merits of the school alone, but also on all the other quality programmes that schools do offer nowadays.Awards are just an affirmation of the good work that's already been done. But does that mean that when there aren't the awards, there's no good work that's done?"
Head of Department for Tanjong Katong Girls School, Lee Shu Jun said the reduction of awards is a move in the right direction. "At the school level, when we apply for such awards, we will need to do a lot of documentation, to list down all the activities and the programmes we have in school and to write up reports to apply for these awards. That's the usual process in applying for MoA awards. With this change, there's only now five best practices awards, and with the removal of the school banding as well, what will happen is that in schools, we will definitely see more streamlined processes.
With these changes, parents deciding on secondary schools for their children will now have to rely on the school's cut-off points, its niche areas, and special programmes offered.
And parents say abolishing the banding will also remove the stigma for some students.
"Removing the banding is somehow better for the student himself, because if he's from band 9, now it won't hurt his feelings. We can identify which is a good school by value-add of the school. No matter if its academic-wise, culture-wise, behaviour-wise and character-wise- it's important to see the school's performance on the students , to show them that they actually value-add on the student itself."
"I will go and do some research on the school and see what activities they have, what are the criteria or what are the teaching standards they apply, the surrounding of the school, and also from the other parents' mouth as well".
The ministry will commit $55m over the next five years to enable schools to build their individual strengths.
-By Monica Kotwani
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