Community: Singapore Community Issues
Remedial classes and streaming
latest letter/article is at the top. The letter/article which started the
debate is right below.
letter by PHOON Lee Chaeng,
Director (Planning) Ministry of Education to Forum, The Straits Times of 13 Mar 2001
| I refer to the commentaries
and letters published on streaming and stress in the education
system. I would like to explain the Ministry of Education's
rationale and approach to streaming.
| Some readers have argued for
students to be allowed to learn at a pace that the students are
comfortable with. Streaming aims to do precisely that, by matching
the abilities of the students with suitable curricula and learning
| Without streaming, students
of different learning abilities will be put into the same class.
They will all be forced to study the same curriculum at the same
| Those who cannot cope with
the pace of the class will become frustrated, lose confidence, and
experience a sense of failure. Those who are capable of doing more
may lose interest and fail to achieve their full potential.
| In 1980, before streaming,
only 58% of the Primary 1 cohort completed secondary school. In
2000, the proportion was 93%.
| This is due in large part to
the availability of differentiated curricula in the different
streams, thus enabling more to complete 10 to 11 years of general
| The introduction of the
Normal (Technical) stream in 1994, for instance, has allowed
another 15% of the Primary 1 cohort to benefit from a
secondary-school education - students who would otherwise have
lost interest in school because of their inability to cope with
the more academic streams.
| Beyond secondary school,
students also have a range of options for post-secondary and
| Our tertiary-education
participation rate is among the highest in the world, with 59% of
the Primary 1 cohort of students entering our universities and
| These students do not just
come from the A-Level stream. For instance, 38% of the Normal
(Academic) stream students who took their O levels in 1999 entered
the polytechnics or pre-university institutions.
| By allowing these students
five years to prepare for the O levels in the Normal stream,
streaming ensures that more students will be able to benefit from
the education system to as high a level as possible.
| There is also flexibility in
the system, such as a parental option after the Primary 4
streaming, in which parents have the final say and can opt for a
more demanding stream than the school's recommendation for their
child, and lateral transfers between streams for students who show
that they are capable of doing well in a more demanding one.
| For instance, in 1999, 382
Secondary 1 Normal (Technical) students transferred to the
Secondary 2 (Normal) Academic stream. Another 347 Secondary 1
Normal (Academic) students were transferred to the Secondary 2
| The well-being of our
children is of utmost importance, and we strive to provide them
with the opportunities to achieve their full potential. Streaming
allows us to cater to differing needs. What we need to work on as
a community is to reduce the stigma that is associated with less
popular streams and programmes.
| It is not, as suggested by Ms
XIA Jing Fang in her letter "Must kids be branded like
cows?"(ST March 5), that the Ministry of Education and
schools "are quick to blame parents for students' behavioural
problems and academic inadequacies, and quick to take credit in
media reports of educational achievements".
| Stress often comes from a
mismatch between expectations and achievement. Parents can have a
very positive influence on the stress levels of their children if
they understand their children's potential and limits, and work
closely with schools to encourage and support them.
| On the part of the ministry,
we have always emphasised the importance of interlocking factors
that have helped to keep educational achievements high: Strong
parental and societal support for education, clear policies backed
by effective implementation, dedicated teachers and school
leaders, and high access to resources (including IT resources).
| Education is our investment
in the future. It is a venture in which schools, parents and the
community work together to create opportunities for all to be the
best that they can be.
PHOON LEE CHAENG, Director
Excerpt of a
letter by XIA Jing Fang to Forum, The Straits Times of 5 Mar 2001
...For the whole of
last year, my daughter was required to go for remedial lessons to
prepare for the Primary 4 streaming examination.
| I opted for her not to attend
these lessons, but her form teacher made several calls to me and
insisted that she attend.
| These calls from teachers cause
stress and anxiety not only to parents but also to children.
| Children fear being stigmatised
should they end up in EM3 classes.
| Why should they be streamed
into classes that label in no uncertain terms their learning
abilities? Must our children be branded like cows?
| After two months of remedial
lessons, not only did my daughter's grades not improve, but she was
also always tired and stressed. Worst of all, her grades
| With each lesson she attended,
I realised her teacher was catching up with what they could not
finish during normal class time.
| I decided to take her out of
the classes completely, over the teacher's objections, and coached
her at home in a stress-free manner, tailored to her pace. She
improved and received an award from the community development
council for doing well.
| The Education Ministry and
schools are quick to blame parents for students' behavioural
problems and academic inadequacies, and quick to take credit in
media reports of educational achievements.
| Parents struggle along with
their children to achieve the incredibly high standards set by the
ministry while schools try, at best, to complete the syllabus so
students can sit for examinations.
| What students learn in school
does not, by any means, prepare them adequately for their
examinations. It is tutors or parents, who painstakingly cover and
explain concepts teachers simply do not have the time to delve
| We are a nation where tutors
and parents have taken on the part-time job of educating our
children when schools fail in their duty to do so, while our
Education Ministry accepts praise for achieving some of the world's
highest educational standards.
| We are also a nation given to
finger-pointing, be it at schools, parents or the ministry. Often
parents end up bearing the brunt of the blame.
XIA Jing Fang
Excerpt of a
letter by LIM Siew Imm to Forum, The Straits Times of 3 Mar 2001
...I wonder if the
Ministry of Education (MOE) is aware that many schools place
additional stress on Primary 4 and 6 pupils, who will be sitting for
| Primary 4 pupils take an exam
which determines which stream they go to, while Primary 6 pupils sit
for the PSLE, which decides which secondary schools they are sent
| Almost from the start of the
new school year, many schools start preparing these groups of pupils
for the upcoming exams by conducting remedial classes from Mondays
to Fridays, as well as supplementary classes on Saturdays.
| Parents should not always be
blamed for the additional stress suffered by schoolchildren when
certain schools do not inform parents by letter that such classes
| And even if such a letter was
sent, some parents may opt for the classes as they believe that the
teachers know best.
| Take the case of my neighbour's
daughter, who was in Primary 6 last year.
| My neighbour did not want her
to attend the additional classes but she insisted on them as she
felt her teacher knew best.
| When last year's PSLE results
were released recently, the pupils in her class who attended
additional classes for the most part of the holidays did not do as
well as those from other classes which did not hold such lessons.
| Excessive classes are
counter-productive and make pupils feel inadequate.
| Schools should be able to cover
the entire syllabus given by MOE for all standards within the
| And if they are unable to do
so, or the syllabus is overwhelming, then the teachers and
principals should speak up.
| But please do not pass
additional stress to our children.
| MOE needs to set up rules and
regulations on the number of hours and the criteria of selection for
remedial classes and other supplementary lessons.
| For example, Saturdays should
be used only for co-curricular activities.
| Parents, please do not allow
the school system to destroy the pupils' childhood.
| Please let your children opt
out of extra classes if you think they do not need such classes.
LIM Siew Imm