Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim: Thank you, Chair. I have two questions for Minister Chan. The first builds on the question by Member Patrick Tay about abolishing the mid-year examination. Could I just clarify that the weight that was originally to be assigned to the mid-year will actually go to continuous assessment instead? Because if not, of course, removing the mid-year just means that the final exam becomes even higher stakes and it is more stressful.
Related to this, has the Ministry considered actually lowering the weight on this so-called synoptic assessment?
The second question is just to clarify what the Minister also said earlier on the later school start times. He mentioned that there were many other schools with later starts. How many schools or what proportion of schools have these later starts for at least the majority of the school days?
Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Chairman, the answer to Assoc Prof Jamus Lim’s first question is that the weights in different schools differ slightly because of the different profiles of students. If you would like to know the specific weights for different schools, then I think we can provide him with the information.
But as I have mentioned, the school profiles are all different and we should not try to homogenise, have a one-size-fit-all measure or yardstick to judge all our students. We are moving towards a system that is much more customised to the respective needs of the students.
On the second point, in fact, a lot of our schools have different start times. Some of them have later start times on certain days of the week but it all depends on when they start, when they end. Some of our schools have kept certain afternoons totally free for their students and their teachers to recharge and do other things.
What I want to emphasise is this. If we recognise that the learning needs of our students are diverse, if we recognise that the background profiles of our students are diverse, we should strive towards a system that provides more diverse options for our schools, our teachers and our students. I think we must take care to not try to homogenise all the conditions when we in fact have agreed that we need greater diversity, which was what I mentioned in my speech. Actually, MOE has just one very simple rule: Thou shalt not start school before 7.30 am.
But I have gotten feedback from different schools on when they want to start and also when they want to end, which the day they want to start later and how much later.
In fact, this is a very good exercise for our students and teachers to come together and decide collectively what are their priorities and how do they prioritise the time.
I will be very careful as the Minister for Education to try to dictate for every school, given their different conditions, to have the same start or end time. I think I want my teachers, I want my students to have that agency to take charge of this and come to a reasonable understanding of where they want to be, given their different conditions.
7 March 2022
Ministry of Education