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  • Singapore Will No Longer Have Exam Rankings to Avoid Students Comparing Grades

    Because ‘learning is not a competition,’ says their Education minister.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Singapore Will No Longer Have Exam Rankings to Avoid Students Comparing Grades
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  • Singapore students are known worldwide for academic excellence, “topping the charts in mathematics, science, and reading,” according to The Straits Times. But the country’s Ministry of Education has recently announced its decision to eliminate exam rankings in primary and secondary students.

    Starting next year, whether a child finishes first or last will no longer be indicated in primary and secondary school report cards, according to a report by The Straits Times. In addition, other information where a child will be able to deduce his or her rankings, like minimum and maximum remarks, mean subject grades, and overall total marks will also be removed. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has also ordered the deletion of ‘pass or fail’ for end-of-year results and to stop underlining or coloring failing marks.

    The change is to allow each student to focus on his or her learning progress instead of comparing themselves to other students, said the MOE.

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    All examinations for Primary 1 and 2 pupils (grades 1 and 2 in the Philippines) will also be removed starting next year so that students can adjust to these new policies.

    Despite the lack of rankings, the MOE said that teachers will still be able to track the students’ progress through discussions, homework, and quizzes. “Qualitative descriptors” will be used in place of marks and grades to evaluate student progress in these primary levels.

    For older students (in elementary and high school), whole numbers will be used to indicate grades, in order to shift the focus from academic scores. Parents will be updated with their child’s progress during parent-teacher meetings.

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    Learning is not a competition

    This is a huge development for Singapore's education system, which is considered one of the best in the world. But it's also famous as a "pressure cooker." It's almost typical on weekends to see parents ferrying their kids to enrichment classes to make sure their kids top their class — and compete in the future among the highly skilled workforce. 

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    The MOE's action is obviously a response to the intense stress kids are subjected to at an early age when it comes to education. Singapore's Education Minister Ye Kung Ong hopes that through these new standards, students will realize the true value of learning.

    “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,” Ong said to 1,700 school leaders last Friday, September 28, the day of the announcement.

    With all these changes, Ong emphasized the report card will still contain information to enable students to judge their academic performance as well as assess their strengths and weaknesses.

    In the Philippines, the K-12 Basic Education Program follows a new grading system wherein students are evaluated with new components like Written Work, Performance Tasks, and Quarterly Assessment. Percentages vary among subjects, with Science and Math having the greater percentage in Written Work and MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health) and EPP (Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan) and TLE (Technology and Livelihood Education) having the greater percentage in Performance Tasks.

    A lot of parents view grades as an indicator of how “intelligent” their child is and even use it to predict their child’s future success, but if there’s anything that we can learn in Singapore’s move to abolish rankings, it’s that high grades do not equate greatness. A better driver for success is actually a person’s character and social skills. So instead of focusing on academic achievements, try and nurture your child’s emotional intelligence!

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