Education hothouse Singapore seeks to ease the pressure


Singapore students get interactive. (AFP pic)


SINGAPORE: Singaporean schoolchildren will take fewer exams from next year under reforms unveiled Friday aimed at easing pressure on stressed-out pupils in a country obsessed with high achievement.

The tiny city-state regularly tops global rankings when it comes to taking tests — but has faced criticism for putting pressure on students from a young age, and for a focus on rote-learning that curbs creative thinking.

From 2019, students in the first two classes of primary school, aged six to eight, will no longer take exams, the education ministry said.

Mid-year examinations will also be removed for some other levels of primary school as well as for those in the first and third years of secondary school.

Outlining the reforms, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that teachers were “on a high-speed train… I think it’s time to take a pause.”

“It will send a strong signal that we are at a strong position of rigour, and can afford to unwind a bit without undermining the performance outcomes,” he was cited as saying in local media.

In addition, students will no longer be told their academic position in class and in their school, to allow them to focus on learning and discourage comparisons with their peers.

The reforms are aimed at moving away from an over-emphasis on academic results, the ministry said.

Many young pupils in Singapore are sent to expensive private tutors outside regular school, reducing the time they have to play, and it is not unusual to see parents studying with their children on the subway.

Many welcomed the move, with Punitha Govindasamy commenting online, “About time too! Children can now have a more rounded childhood. Hopefully parents see the value in this.”