Singapore to reform education system, focus less on exams

With fewer exams and the removal of class ranking from report books, Singapore intends to make education a more enjoyable, less stressful experience.

Addressing a crowd at the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference at Raffles City Convention Centre, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke about the goal of the SkillsFuture program: to make learning in Singapore less reliant on examination and ranking.

“By default, we tend to assess how well a child is doing in school by his examination scores, but education is a holistic developmental experience that goes far beyond marks and grades. Between a child acing his examinations but hating the thought of going to school, versus another scoring average grades but delighted to attend school and learn – who is doing better? It is hard to say.”

– Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister

Ong Ye Kung, while lambasting Singapore’s “[over-reliance] on [the security blanket of examination scores],” went on to address concerns Singapore’s education system would start to “slacken and lose its rigour.”

“We are reducing examinations by 25%, in a calibrated way, not removing them entirely. We are achieving a better balance between joy and rigour with this change.”

– Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister

The idea, according to Kung, is to strike a perfect balance between objective assessment and holistic learning. While this may seem radical at a glance, with Kung himself anticipating pushback from parents, many have supported the new policy.

“Fortunately, and to my great relief, there was no negative uproar, and I am deeply grateful to all the parents who wrote encouraging and supportive messages to me since I made the announcement.”

– Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister

For those in favour of the change, some worried if there were fewer examinations, schools would introduce other similar assessments, mimicking traditional examinations in everything but name; however, Kung was quick to address this concern.

“This change is a concerted shift by the entire education system. Prior to the announcements, MOE spent three days discussing the matter with principals and vice principals, and they supported the move. They are in fact very glad that time has been returned to the schools, for better teaching and learning.”

– Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister

As for tuition centres, though, Kung has heard word from a few that do plan to “simulate examination-like conditions to make up for the lost examinations,” which Kung has “strongly [urged] them not to do.”

The changes coming to Singapore will likely come with growing pains, for public schools to parents to tuition centres, but Kung promises the new policy is future-thinking and for the betterment of the country.

“Collectively, all the changes that have been taking place are transforming the way we prepare Singaporeans for the future.”

– Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister

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