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Understanding the Transition from Streaming to Full SBB in Singapore's Secondary Schools

The moment of anticipation has finally arrived, as the 2023 PSLE results are officially out. For students and parents, this marks a significant juncture in the educational journey. But there's more to this year's results than meets the eye. Come 2024, a huge change is on the horizon — all secondary schools with academic streams will bid farewell to the traditional streaming system and usher in Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB).


This transformation is no small feat. Forty years after the inception of streaming in secondary schools, Singapore's Ministry of Education has made a momentous decision: to eliminate the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic), and Express streams entirely. Instead, they will embrace a new era of education with Full SBB, a system that allows students to choose subjects at higher or lower levels based on their individual strengths.


But what does this mean for your child who will be entering Secondary 1?


What Does Full Subject-Based Banding Mean?


As mentioned, Full SBB brings a transformative shift, bidding farewell to the traditional three streams. With its implementation having already begun in phases back in 2020, this approach provides students entering secondary schools with a dynamic platform for customising their learning experience down to the individual subject level.


However, to fully grasp the significance of Full SBB, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the system it's replacing – the traditional streaming system.


Secondary School Streaming


Streaming was initially introduced into secondary schools in response to a pressing issue in the 1970s when Singapore grappled with a high dropout rate. The conventional one-size-fits-all curriculum was proving too inflexible and led to many students struggling with their studies, ultimately diminishing their enthusiasm for education.


The introduction of three distinct streams — Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) — represented a significant transformation. This system allowed students with diverse academic abilities to progress at different learning paces, resulting in a remarkable reduction in the dropout rate.


However, streaming, despite its benefits, also has its drawbacks. One of which was that certain streams were deemed to be inferior to others, casting an unwarranted shadow on students and eroding their self-assurance and future opportunities.


Furthermore, it lacked the nuance to consider students' distinct strengths and weaknesses across various subjects. For instance, a student could display exceptional linguistic skills while grappling with scientific concepts. This is because the rigid streaming framework mandated that students pursue all subjects at a uniform level throughout their secondary education, primarily determined by their PSLE results. This approach failed to acknowledge the individualised talents and challenges each student brought to the table.


Hence, the motivation to transition to Full SBB.


How Does Full SBB Work?


Understanding the Full Subject-Based Banding system goes beyond merely knowing your child's PSLE score; it's about comprehending the intricacies of Posting Groups and subject levels.


What is a Posting Group?


After your child completes their PSLE, their results will be categorised into one of three Posting Groups: 3, 2, or 1. These Posting Groups are thoughtfully mapped to the existing PSLE score ranges associated with the Express, N(A), and N(T) streams, respectively. Do note that this is mainly to facilitate school admissions and guide students in selecting appropriate subject levels at the beginning of the academic year and does not dictate or influence a student's school life beyond this initial phase.


To provide a clearer picture of the allocation:

PSLE Score Range

Posting Group

4 to 20

3

21 to 22

Option (Choose between Posting Group 2 or 3)

23 to 24

2

25

Option (Choose between Posting Group 1 or 2)

26 to 30 (with AL7 in English and Math)

1

Three Suites of Subjects


The Full SBB system also introduces three distinct suites of subjects, each designed to cater to varying academic strengths:

Achievement Level Score

Suite of Subjects

Description

4 to 20

G3

Highest academic level, similar to Express stream

23 to 24

G2

Eligible for the G2 suite of subjects

26 to 30

G1

Opportunity to undertake the G1 suite

Intermediate Range

G1 to G3

Customise subjects from G1 to G3

Mixed-Form Classes and Common Subjects


Once your child enters secondary school, their initial Posting Group determines the subject levels they start with. For example, a student entering under Posting Group 2 will begin most subjects at the G2 level. However, they will not be fixed at one level. This means that a student who starts with G2 subjects under Posting Group 2 could eventually take many or even all their subjects at the G3 level as they move through secondary school.


As a result of these shifts, form classes will eventually consist of a mix of students, each studying subjects at varying levels. This also facilitates interaction with peers from other classes.


Potential Challenges in Transitioning to Full SBB



However, transitioning to Full SBB is not without its challenges.


Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Adapting Teaching Methods: With a more diverse classroom comprising students at various subject levels, teachers may need to adapt their teaching methods. Tailoring lesson plans to meet the specific needs of each student can be more demanding but is essential to ensure effective learning for all.

  • Greater Ownership of Learning: Under Full SBB, students have the flexibility to choose subjects at different levels. This shift requires them to take greater ownership of their learning. They will need to make informed decisions about their academic pathways and manage their studies accordingly.

  • Parental Understanding: Parents may need time to fully understand the changes brought about by Full SBB and how they can support their children in making the most of the new system.


Benefits of Full SBB: A Positive Shift


The transition to Full Subject-Based Banding in Singapore's secondary schools promises numerous benefits, including the reduction of stigmatisation associated with traditional streaming, greater subject-level customisation, and more diverse classrooms where students from various Posting Groups and subject levels interact.


This approach fosters a fairer assessment system, offers a wider array of subject choices, and improves students' confidence as they recognise their individual achievements. Moreover, it ensures a smooth transition from primary to secondary school and presents opportunities for educators to enhance teaching methods to cater to the diverse needs of their students, making Full SBB a positive and transformative shift in Singapore's competitive education landscape.


Navigate Educational Changes with Math Academia


As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of Singapore's education system, it's crucial to prepare your child for a seamless transition to secondary school. At Math Academia, we fully comprehend the challenges faced by students and parents during this pivotal journey. As such, our team of dedicated Math tutors in Singapore stands ready to offer unwavering support. With our specialised E-Math tuition, we equip students not just with Math skills but also the confidence and critical thinking abilities needed to excel in this changing educational environment.


Choose Math Academia, your trusted source for Math tuition in Singapore, and empower your child for a bright academic future.

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