Singapore's education landscape in 2012
Two more national universities, the removal of secondary school banding and greater priority for Singaporeans entering primary school.
These are some of the sweeping changes in Singapore's education landscape in 2012.
Sharon See with a review of 2012, and a look-ahead of what's to come in the new year.
"Some parents say it's a harrowing experience, while others offer to be volunteers years in advance -- just so they can secure a spot in a good primary school."
All that has eased somewhat, after the Education Ministry tweaked the process for Primary One registration, giving Singaporeans absolute priority over Permanent Residents.
It's a move that observers say reflects feedback from the 2011 General Election.
"That's a message that got through from the last elections. I think some of the feedback is that look, really, there's no difference between a Singaporean and PR and also the foreigners. So I think MOE has taken this approach that, look, there should be a greater distinction so that the privilege of being a Singaporean is more distinct."
Also in 2012, for the first time, MOE decided not to name the top student of the Primary School Leaving Examination, fueling much public debate.
But the ministry has held fast to its message -- that there is more to education than just grades.
And in pursuit of its vision of 'Every School is a Good School', the ministry has abolished secondary school banding -- a system that ranks schools based on academic results at the 'O' Levels.
This was announced by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the MOE's annual work plan seminar in September.
"The fact is there is no single yardstick to measure how 'good' our schools are."
But how effective will this initiative be?
With only the top 10 per cent of each cohort qualifying for the Integrated Programme, many have come to regard schools offering the IP track as 'top schools' in Singapore.
Chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, Lim Biow Chuan.
" The 'Every School is a Good School' concept does not mean that you take away this concept of distinguishing between stronger students and weaker students in terms of academic performance. But 'Every School is a Good School' concept should be that every school is equipped to do well and perform for the students. So you're going to send good teachers, good principals, and you're going to equip schools as much as possible, so that there is no material distinction in the ability of the staff to be able to help the students to excel in their work. It doesn't mean that all schools will be equal because I don't think you can equalise it completely. But what every parent and every student should be assured of is that whatever school they go to, they will not be penalised or they will not be disadvantaged in that they have less resources or they have got all the not so good teachers being posted there.)
To further drive home the point, MOE has committed S$55 million over the next five years to help schools develop niche areas, whether in the arts or sports."
At the tertiary level, there're now more opportunities for Singaporean students.
With growing demand for university places, the government has increased full-time places for applied degrees at the Singapore Institute of Technology and the SIM University.
This brings the total number of national universities to six, and it will also allow four in 10 students to get a university education by 2020.
While some cautioned against vocationalising university education, many are of the opinion that having applied degrees would ensure industrial relevance.
2012 has also seen more educators hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, with several charged for personal indiscretion.
" This year has not been a terribly good year for some of the cases that we're seeing. There has been some misbehaviour amongst teachers and I think it bears repeating to teachers that they hold a heavy responsibility of nurturing our students."
While the court cases remain a minority, Mr Lim expects the newly developed code of conduct for educators to provide guidelines on appropriate interaction in school and online.
"Currently, many teachers feel that to build on that relationship with a student, I don't have to keep my distance. I can be not just a teacher to my students, but also a friend - a friend that the student can come to if they're in trouble. I think the intent is good but sometimes, teachers who become friends to the students may forget that their role is still to be role models, as teachers do, their students. And when that friendship becomes too cosy, complications may arise."
In 2013, MOE is also expected to release a curriculum framework for Mother Tongue for preschools, which observers say could ensure a smoother transition into primary school.
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