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     FrontPage Edition: Mon 6 Mar 2006

New NorthLight School to offer vocational programmes in 2007


To better cater to students who can benefit from a more customised and vocational curriculum, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will establish a new school called NorthLight School (NLS).
The school, which will commence operation in January 2007, will offer an enhanced vocational programme.
In each cohort, there is a small group of students who are unable to progress through the mainstream secondary school system and are at risk of dropping out of school.
In 2005, there were 1,100 students who failed the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). 12% of these students failed the PSLE for the third time.
Amongst the students who repeat, some leave school prematurely - either while repeating their Primary 6 year or, for those who progress to secondary school, in subsequent years.
Currently, students need to be at least 14 years old to enrol into the two Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) under the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) viz. Geylang Serai VTC (GS VTC) and Assumption Vocational Institute (AVI).
The VTCs take in students who have failed the PSLE three times as well as students who have prematurely left secondary school. These institutions currently offer a two-year vocational training programme for about 350 students each[1]. However attrition from these programmes has been high.
Feedback from teachers, parents and students indicates that a holistic approach is required to engage these students, to help them continue their education.
Further, many of these students could gain from starting vocationally oriented education earlier than they currently do. By doing so, they would benefit from a programme that is better customised to their learning styles and better meet their socio-emotional needs.
MOE will work together with ITE to set up NLS. GS VTC will become part of NLS in 2007, while AVI will continue to offer the existing vocational programme for now. The insights and experience gained at NLS in terms of pedagogy and curriculum may be adapted by AVI.
From 2007, NLS will admit students who can potentially benefit from a more vocationally-oriented curriculum, in particular, students who have failed the PSLE twice or more (ie 13 years old or more).
A three-year programme will be offered to these students[2]. This will enable students who are not benefiting from the mainstream curriculum to have an earlier start in vocational training. Parents and students will retain the choice of taking the PSLE a third time in their primary schools.
NLS will also be open to students who prematurely leave secondary school. In the longer term, admission will also be possible for students who have failed the PSLE once, after NLS has built up its capacity.
In 2007, NLS will be able to cater to up to 600 students, including the current GS VTC students. In the longer term, it is expected that the maximum enrolment at NLS will be around 1,400 students.
The NLS will focus on equipping students with the skills, confidence and learning abilities for them to progress in their education and careers. It will aim to prepare as many of the students as possible to progress to the NITEC program in ITE. The following are the key enhancements to the curriculum:

Emphasis on socio-emotional needs and character development.  These will take up a greater share of curriculum time. A focused programme will be introduced to help build students¡¯ self-confidence and instill important life-skills such as taking responsibility and managing relationships. The school will also have a full CCA programme including sports, games and the arts so as to develop bonds amongst the students and develop character.


Customisation of learning. The three-year programme will allow greater emphasis on core competencies in mathematics and language literacy. The school will adopt an experiential and hands-on approach to learning. This will better engage students who learn better in non-traditional classroom settings. 


Improvements to vocational training.  Vocational training will remain the functional core of the curriculum. However, there will be a wider range of vocational options to stimulate students¡¯ interests and open up their career choices. In addition to current programmes in mechanical servicing, electrical servicing and food preparation, new programmes related to service and creative industries will be introduced. 

Students will receive a School Graduation Certificate as a holistic record of their achievements.
The School Graduation Certificate consolidates a student¡¯s achievements in the academic and non-academic domains, and includes an assessment of the student¡¯s personal qualities. Similar to the existing vocational programme, graduates from NLS will also receive the ITE Skills Certificate (ISC).
Graduates of NLS can progress to further education at ITE, employment or apprenticeship with the industries.
NLS will be located at the site of the current ITE Macpherson campus by 2011.
In the interim, NLS will operate out of two locations. New students will be enrolled in the former Broadrick Secondary School which will be refurbished. Students of NLS will therefore be able to enjoy the full complement of sports and other CCA facilities of a secondary school. Existing students will continue at GS VTC, which is nearby.
A joint MOE-ITE Steering Committee was set up in October 2005 to review the existing vocational programme.
As part of this review, the Committee consulted a wide range of stakeholders including students, parents, school leaders and teachers. The Committee also drew insights from visits to schools in Hong Kong and the United States.
This new school is part of MOE¡¯s broader effort to identify and assist students who are at risk of dropping out of the education system.
At the pre-school level, MOE is working with MCYS and other partners to help ensure that all children have access to pre-school education.
At the primary level, MOE is enhancing the Learning Support Programme (LSP) in English at Primary 1 and 2, with a stronger focus on addressing the needs of students with reading difficulties. All primary schools will also adopt a LSP in Mathematics in 2007; 50 schools are already adopting this programme in 2006.
At the secondary level, MOE is implementing a revised Normal (Technical) programme with a more practical approach to learning. At the post-secondary level, the ITE is also introducing a broader range of options to better attract and engage its students, for instance, in preparing them for the service-related industries.
MOE is also significantly enhancing counselling resources in schools. Every secondary school will have a full-time school counsellor by the end of 2006 and all primary schools and junior colleges/centralised institutes by the end of 2008.

[1] Students who leave secondary school prematurely enrol into a one-year programme at the existing VTCs.

[2] Students who are premature secondary school leavers will be offered a shorter programme based on their ability.

Source: Media Release 3 Mar 2006

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