Secondary school

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

From 4 to 8 subjects in Secondary School

Moving from 4 to 8 subjects

Congradulations you have just finished your PSLE and successfully entered secondary school. It is no longer a hand holding 1st day of school for you. Nope, your parents can’t and won’t be around on standby to see if you are adapting well to the new environment and there is no buddy for you now.

You are 12 turning on 13 and it is time to exert your independence. You have to handle navigating this new study environment by yourself. It is all up to you now. Good luck!!

Looking at the number of subjects that one has to take in secondary 1 can be mind boggling. From four examinable subject you now have 8 examinable subjects to handle. The addition of subjects like Geography, History, Literature, Food and Consumer Education and Design and Technology can be overwhelming. You may ask how do they fit in so many subjects within the existing time table. To figure out this question let us look at the typical week time table.

A Primary 6 Time Table.

As you can see above the typical school day starts from 7.45am to 1.30pm on most days. On the day that the students have CCA they are dismissed 15 minutes earlier to facilitate lunch and change over. The majority of the lesson time in a day is distributed between English, Maths and Mother Tongue ( Mandarin, Tamil or Malay). Now compare with the time table of a lower secondary student below.

A Lower Secondary Time Table

It gets more complicated once your child enters secondary school. The time table is now split into even week and odd weeks where there will be slight changes in the time table. With the addition of home based learning(HBL) one day every forthright it is amazing how both the students and teachers can keep track on what is to be scheduled for the week. I certainly be stressed out trying to juggle the ever changing schedule on a weekly basis. It is really mind boggling.

Since there isn’t a great extension of periods in the time table there is lesser time allocated to the 4 core subjects (English, Maths, Science, Mother Tongue) with the addition of Geography, History, Literature , Food and Consumer Education/ Design & Technology. Independent learning is emphasied and strongly encouraged. This is a challenge for most students as they are so used to have everything planned for them. They are not use to taking charge, design and follow a self-designed schedule. It is certainly stressful and many find it hard to cope. What then can we do to prepare our child for these changes?

Study Tips

  1. Review your work weekly.
    At the end of the week do look through what has been taught. It does help to make notes of keywords and concepts that have to be memorised to make it easier for one to focus on for the subject.
  2. Do a learning planner
    What I have found effective for myself and my students is to set aside at least half and hour to an hour a day to do the following
    – check off items on the to-do-list which was set for the day.
    -review the difficult concepts/ problems that were handled on the day.
    – block off hours in a week for learning and review.

It may take time to get use to the adjustments in the school time table and to develop new effective routines. Give your child a few months to settle down once you enter secondary school. The time taken to adjust properly will certainly help them and they won’t be so stressed after awhile.

In the next post I will be sharing with you the apps and videos that my boys have been using to keep on top of things during their secondary school education.

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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