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Singapore abolishes school exam rankings

October 16, 2018

In a much applauded move, Singapore abolished the decades-old school exam ranking system in primary and secondary classes. With this, report cards will stop showing a student’s position in relation to class or cohort.

In order to avoid all forms of comparison, the report book will also not carry class and level mean, minimum and maximum marks, underlining/colouring of failing marks, pass/fail for end-of-year result, mean subject grades, overall total marks and L1R5 (English plus five relevant subjects), L1R4 , EMB3 (English, maths, best three subjects) and EMB1 for lower secondary levels. The move, Singapore’s education minister Ong Ye Kung hopes, will show students that “learning is not a competition”. 

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said on September 28 that the change is to allow each student to focus on his or her learning progress and discourage them from being overly concerned about comparisons.

Further, from next academic year, all examinations for primary 1 and 2 will be removed, and whatever forms of assessment they have will not count towards an overall grade. Teachers will continue gathering information about pupils’ learning through discussions, homework and quizzes. Schools will have to use other ways like “qualitative descriptors”, in place of marks, to evaluate pupils’ progress, which will be communicated to parents at parents-teachers meetings.

For higher classes, marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as a whole number (without decimal points), to reduce the focus on academic scores.

In an address to around 1,700 school leaders in October, Ong said: “I know that becoming first or second in class or level, has traditionally been a proud recognition of a student’s achievement. But removing these indicators is for a good reason, so that the child understands from young that learning is not a competition, but a self-discipline they need to master for life. Notwithstanding, the report book should still contain some form of yardstick and information to allow students to judge their relative performance, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses,” reported the Citi Newsroom.

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