SBB – One year on (A reflection)


The academic year has just come to a close for Tiger girl. She has successfully completed Secondary 1 under SBB. It has been a rather interesting year for her being in this new integrated class. The school that Tiger girl is in had been chosen as one of the test centers for this new scheme and it has been a full SBB school for two years to date. Come 2024 all schools will be SBB and it will certainly be interesting to see how more students fare under this new banding system . I will be sharing her personal thoughts on this later on in this post together my personal opinions on this banding system.

It is all inclusive under this banding. The weaker systems (formerly classified as Normal Technical or Normal Academic) are now given equal chance to bond and mix with the Express students on a day to day basis. Having such a classroom creates a more level playing feel for the mixed ability students to gel and associate with each other. The weaker are allowed to advance while the more academically brilliant students are not held back as they study the key subjects – English, Math , Science and Mother Tongue (2nd language) at a higher level. The whole class is only together for non -core subjects like Geography, History, Art, Music etc.

There are more disruptions in the class due to bad behavior from classmates. Less academically inclined students tend to be more rowdy and active in class which can cause major distractions to students who are trying hard to pay attention and study in class. Tiger girl had complained to me on more then one occasion that classes get disrupted as the teacher has to pause teaching to discipline misbehaving students in class. Having taught in the classroom before I personally know how exhausting it is dealing with behavioural issues what more from hot headed teenagers. Due to all these unwanted disruptions she doesn’t get the full benefit of the lesson.

Even in a class of all G3 students there can be a range of ability it can be difficult for the teacher to get everyone to follow on with the lesson what more when you have a mixture of G1-G3 students within the class. As a result I personally feel that it is quite impossible for the teacher to deliver a lesson which is really tailored to Tiger girl’s academic level. Being a G3 student in a mixed ability class she found many lessons boring and very dull and would often “switch” off in class as there wasn’t really much added value to her for listening attentively. Fortunately for her she is independent in her studies and is able to self study to maintain her grades. She managed to get a Edusave Scholarship this year for her Academic performance which shows that she is ranking within the top 10% of her school’s level and course in terms of academic performance, and had demonstrated good conduct. I’m hoping that she will be able to receive Edusave Scholarship for the next few years too that she is in this school just like Monkey boy and Doggie boy did when they were in secondary school.

Socialising in school

Tiger girl also mentioned to me that she mixes better with other G3 students and seldom mixes with the G2/G1 students as they do not really communicate along the same bandwidth. She has made a few new friends since entering this secondary school and still keeps in contacts with the primary school friends she had in her previous school.
I feel that it has been quite idealistic for the designers of this SBB system to think that everyone when forced together in a melting pot will be able to associate well and get click with one another. There are still cliques and groups forming in the class to date. The vast differences in personality, intellectual ability and interest make it hard for everyone to get along with each other.

My gripe about this setting is that she is not in an environment that will push her to excel as it does not stretch her potential at all. Her current classmates will be following her up to Secondary four as there is no need to swap in and out of classes as there is NO better class with every class being a mixed class in the level. It could be a real torture for the student if he/she is place in a class where classmate as not conducive to learning.

Lucky for Tiger girl she other resources out of school to aid her learning and she can still be able to be improve on her potential. She is also not too bothered about school and steers clear of any chaotic or problematic student around her.

Final thoughts

I guess there is no “perfect” solution and that as a parent one can only do the best with the resources we have to create the most “ideal” environment for our child to promote their learning in and out of school.

What are you thoughts on SBB?

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