Subject Based Banding (SBB) and Me

Are the changes mindboggling to you?

Recently MOE announced that most schools from 2024 will be subject based banding schools. There has been many coverage on various media platforms about the technical differences this makes in the current AL system. Therefore I will not be covering it here on this blog but in fact address this from the perspective of a parent whose child has been exposed to SBB in 2023.

It has been a term since Tiger girl entered Secondary school and she is quite well adjusted to the changes in the breath of subjects that she has to address in school. Moving from 4 to 8 subject hasn’t been too difficult for her and she is enjoying herself in her chosen Secondary school. She hasn’t found much different being in a class of mix ability for non- core subjects. Based on her sharing with me the only grouse she has is that there are “still” too many boys in class then girls so it can get rather noisy and rowdy at times.

If you are wondering how your child maybe affected by SBB here is some insight into what you may be facing.

How will SBB benefit my child if they qualify for Group 3?
(Formerly known as Express Stream/ Scoring between AL 4-20)

There is NO benefit for your child. Let me repeat- NO BENEFIT!! Your child is already doing subjects at the highest level possible within the 3 groupings so there is no where else to promote your child to unless he/she switches over to IP in Secondary 3 if he does well enough. However for most students they would be remaining in the ” O” level track and this would mean no change to the subject level which they enter the school at.

Who will benefit from SBB then?

If you child had entered the school and was eligible for Group 1(Formerly known as Normal Technical (NT) stream with a PSLE AL score of 26-30 they maybe able to take between 1-3 subjects at a higher level depending on their ability. For example if the student is doing well in English he may be able to take it at Group 2 level ( Formerly know as Normal Academic (NA) level) while taking the other subjects at the Group 1 level. This is the same as for students who are eligible for Group 2 (Who have scored a PSLE AL score of 21-25) to take on Group 3 subjects.

Previously the students who were in Normal Academic were allowed to take between 1-2 subjects at Express levels if they scored more then 75 marks (Grade 1) in the particular subject. I did have students who managed to move from NA Science to Express Science after the 1st semester in Sec 1. However do note that her results did dip a bit come WA3 as there is a slight gap between the NA Science and Express Science syllabus. Certain components of topics were listed as *optional for NA students so she wasn’t taught them in class and had to revisit the textbook and learn all the ” missing parts” that were taught in the 1st semester of Sec 1 to catch up.

Come next year when she does her Sec 4 exams if she scores a grade of B3 for Express Science it will be counted as additional bonus point to the final score in her N-Level marks. IE: a O Level score of B3 = Grade 1 for N-Levels. The marks for the paper that she took at Express level will be release together with all other candidates which took O-Level papers. Therefore she would have 2 different certificates – one stating the subjects she took at N-Levels and another stating the subjects taken at O-Levels. With the combination of these 2 marks she will see if she qualifies for Poly Foundation year (refer to my earlier post on it ) stay back for Secondary 5/ or enter ITE under DPP.

This year I’m handling a student how has shifted from NT Science to NA Science. His results are still okay as we managed to play catch up during the December holidays after it was confirmed that he had manage to be promoted from NT stream to NA stream. If anyone is curious the science syllabus for Sec 1 NT science is totally different than Sec 1 NA. Therefore I have to do catch up on the whole Sec 1 NA syllabus while simultaneously prepare him for the Sec 2 NA tests/ exams.

*Do note that lateral transfer from NT to NA stream is one way and they will NOT downgrade you back to NT if you are not able to cope well in the NA stream. It is the same if you progress from NA to Express stream. If you do not perform well at the higher level you may be retained in the same level if you do not meet the minimum standard for end of year promotion.
The only transfer allowed to a lower level is from IP to the O-Level stream if the student is not able to reach the minimum promotion standard by Sec 3. For such cases the student may

What is needed for level progression in Secondary School?

To be promoted from one level to another here is a common set of criteria which is applied in all secondary schools

  • Promotion at Secondary 1 and 2 ( Express)
    Pass in EL and a pass percentage in the average of all subjects
  • Promotion at Secondary 1, 2 and 3 (Normal Academic)
    Grade 5 of better in (a) EL and 2 other subjects of (b) 4 subjects.
  • Promotion at Secondary 1, 2 and 3 (Normal Technical)
    Grade D or better in 2 subjects, one of which should be EL or Mathematics.
  • Promotion at Secondary 3 (Express)
    Grade 6 or better in EL and 2 other subjects.

What are your thoughts on SBB? Do share in the comments below.

Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School
4) What Next after the N- Levels?

5) What Next after the O-Levels?

6) Subject Based Banding (SBB) and Me

What is Next after the O-Levels?

Thinking of your pathway after completing your O-Levels? Here in Singapore there are two popular choices- Junior College or Polyethnic.

There are both pros and cons to which path you and your child choose depending on what interest your child has. Back in 2020 when Monkey Boy graduated from his secondary school. He had the choice of choosing to enter the Polytechnic , Junior college or even the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme with his straight As.

(For those who are not very familiar with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) it is one which leads directly into university and is seen as a better pathway for academically brilliant kids as more universities overseas recognise this qualification as compared to A-Levels. )

After much consideration he chose to go to Polytechnic instead to pursue his interest in Computer studies. This was his reasoning back then for choosing to go to Polytechnic.

No to International Baccalaureate Diploma
– Having to study the core subjects below which are very theoretically based on top of Computer Science

  • Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.
  • The extended essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
  • Creativity, activity, service, in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.

Monkey boy felt that the curriculum was very dry and he didn’t want to have to subject himself to just regurgitating theory and doing countless tests and exams in a classroom setting.

No to Junior College
He felt that what he would be learning in Junior College may not be relevant to what he wants to know as there are only two possible selections – Arts or Science stream. He would have to continue learning Chinese and have to wear a uniform to school. The workload is very heavy in JC and being in another regimental institute would be too stifling for him. To be in such a regimented environment for another 2 years will certainly hamper his creativity and growth.

I let him decide on his own and made it clear that he had to be responsible for his own decision at that point of time.

My Opinion

I felt that Polytechnic would be the best option for him as firstly he would be graduating with a Diploma and have some industrial experience with the internship that they have in Year 3. There will be more time for him to continue with a more rounded education as he will still have time to pursue his interests in music besides just solely focusing on academics. I also heard how rigid it is in junior college whereby what you are learning may be so dated that it can’t be really applied in the real world if you do decide to come out and work straight after A-Levels. The bottom line was that Monkey boy didn’t have interest to go for a very academic route where he had to study ” irrelevant” subjects to him. I personally feel that he would be better equip to enter the workforce in time to come if he had more practical experience and chance to pursue his passion in computing directly.

It has been 3 years since he made this decision and he is now doing really well in his chosen course in Polytechnic topping the whole cohort in his course and making it to the dean’s list two years in a row. He certainly does not regret the decision not to go to JC or do IB as he is flourishing in Poly. In fact the trend nowadays is to go to Poly rather then JC for most of my friends kids.

Which pathway would you choose ?

Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School
4) What Next after the N- Levels?

5) What Next after the O-Levels?

6) Subject Based Banding (SBB) and Me