Singapore reforms grading system by abolishing school exam ranking

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New Singaporean exam grading system (Photo: StraitTimes)

Singapore is carrying out a new grading system reform expected to take effect next year. Whether a child finishes first or last will no longer be indicated in primary and secondary school report books as a result.

This new grading system is based on a directive by the Singaporean Education Minister, Ong Ye Kung who hopes that it will show students that “learning is not a competition”.
Student’s position is not the only one to be dropped in report books in relation tother classmates.
Other information to be dropped includes Class and level mean, Minimum and maximum mark, and Underlining and/or colouring of failing marks. 
Also, pass/fail will no longer be indicated for end-of-year result. Mean subject grades and Overall total marks are to be excluded too. 
The L1R5 (English plus five relevant subjects), L1R4 (English plus four relevant subjects), EMB3 (English, maths, best three subjects) and EMB1 (English, maths, best three subjects) requirements for lower secondary levels would also go away.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said 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.
From 2019, all examinations for Primary 1 and 2 pupils will also be removed, and whatever forms of assessment they have will not count towards an overall grade.

The MOE said that teachers will continue to gather information about pupils’ learning through discussions, homework and quizzes. Schools will use other ways like “qualitative descriptors”, in place of marks and grades, to evaluate pupils’ progress at these two levels.
For older students in primary schools and secondary schools, marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as a whole number, without decimal points – to reduce the focus on academic scores.
Parents will continue to receive information about their child’s progress in school during parent-teacher meetings.

In an address to some 1,700 school leaders earlier in September, Mr Ong said “I know that ‘coming in 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.”
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