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All You Need To Know About Subject-Based Banding

Singapore is set to end the streaming system and incorporate full subject-based banding (SBB) into its curriculum of secondary school in 2024. The idea behind doing this is to create a better approach to learning that will benefit the students. Terms like normal academic, normal technical, and express will no longer be a part of the vocabulary.

As a parent, you need to understand what this will mean for your child’s learning.

Here is everything you need to know about full subject-based banding that will provide you with a better glimpse into this approach.


Full Subject-Based Banding Explained

Before we move on to anything else, you need to understand what full SBB is. The primary aim of full SBB is to divide the subjects into three levels so it can become easier for the students to pursue what they like. These levels include:

  • General 1 (G1): You can think of this as a new version of the previous technical syllabus
  • General 2 (G2): You can think of this as a revised version of the normal (academic) syllabus
  • General 3 (G3): You can think of this as a new version of the Express syllabus

After Secondary 1, students will have the choice to change their subjects, especially if they have performed well in all the other subjects. On the other hand, students will also have the freedom to take some subjects from the lower level if they think that the current course load is too much.

Through various examinations and guidelines, the schools will also be tracking the progress of the students. After the students have reached Secondary 4, they will have to take another exam. Once they graduate after this exam, they will not be part of the streaming levels.


A Deeper Look Into How Subject-Based Banding Will Work

Now that you have a rough idea of SBB, you must understand on a deeper level how it works to be more comfortable with it. You have to remember that students will no longer be sorted into normal and express. Each student can take G1, G2, or G3 levels of subjects.

Form classes will include equal combinations of G1 or G2 and G3 students. This will depend on the school and how it wants to proceed with this. Students from these different groups will take the same class in a form class. This can be citizenship education, Art, or even PE.

However, in difficult subjects such as languages, science, and mathematics, the students will be divided based on the subject level that they have opted for. Doing this is also important so that the students can learn the subjects at their own pace. Besides that, mixing them for form classes will ensure that they can mingle with their peers and stay in touch with them.

Of course, how the classes take place and what will happen will depend on the school and how they are planning to proceed with this. So, you will have to communicate with the school to understand this even better.


Reasons For Moving Towards Full Subject-Based Banding

You might wonder why the government is completely trying to change the system and move towards full SBB. Well, here are a few reasons that will help you understand why this decision is taking place:

1. Express And Normal Will Not Define Students Anymore

The language we use is important because it shapes our thoughts and behaviors. The MOE understands this, which is why it doesn’t want to use terms such as Normal and Express to define students anymore. That is because students that take the normal route feel that they can’t improve much after this.

Besides that, such students also tend to lose interest in learning things that are outside of the syllabus. The language affects the confidence of the students, and the government doesn’t want children taking the normal route to feeling that they don't have the abilities needed to take the express route. The aim is to remove the stigma that attaches the student once they take the normal route.

People will no longer use terms such as express and normal routes to define students and their abilities to learn. In the long run, students' self-esteem and confidence will not be hurt by these labels.

2. Taking Into Account The Pace Of Students

Each student is unique because everyone learns at their own pace, depending on their skills and abilities. The idea behind the streaming system was to reduce dropout rates in Singapore. However, the problem with such a system is that it doesn’t consider the unique abilities of the student to learn a certain subject.

It takes everyone a different time to master the same subject and concepts. That is because some students can master a subject on their own while others need a little bit of help. Because of this, there is no guarantee that students in the Express system will be able to keep up with their learning needs.

Because of this, the MOE decided to introduce a full SBB. Doing this will allow the students to learn at their unique speed and follow a curriculum based on their preferences and strengths. So, it will be better for the students as their needs are also taken into account while devising SBB.

3. Developing The Right Skills

One of the best things about the digital world is that we have all the information in the world available at our fingertips. However, this also makes us lazy because we don't develop the skills that we need in the future. This is why it is important to ensure that students are developing the right skills from a young age.

Through full SBB, students can learn at their pace while also pursuing the subjects that they like. In the long run, this will enhance their interest in the subject, and they will want to learn more actively. So, it provides more freedom of choice as students can decide what skills they need to develop.

After all, we need to honor our uniqueness if we want to be successful in the world. So, opting for SBB will help the children decide how they want to navigate their future and where they want to go.

4. Better Relations Among Students

Another reason behind introducing full SBB is to improve the relations that students have with one another. That is because students will not be separated based on the curriculum that they choose. They will have more diversity as they will also be in touch with their peers that belong to different bands.

On the other hand, students will also not have to worry about their peers judging their abilities. It will allow them to focus on their work and study even better. The streaming system divides the students, and it affects the relationships that they cultivate with their peers.

The hope behind the new full SBB is to ensure that students mingle with their peers and also learn from students that belong to different curriculums. All of this will only benefit the students in the long run.

5. Maximizing The Potential Of Each Student

The government has introduced full SBB so that each student can maximize their own potential with the way that they learn. Teachers will be there to support the learning of students throughout this time. Banding the students together in their choice of learning will help them learn from their peers and aid one another.

Besides that, being together in form classes will also help the students to respect each other’s differences and work together. In such a classroom, role modeling can also take place as the weaker students can learn from others. So, in the long run, the students will benefit from the best of both worlds.

A mixture of such learning will allow them to flourish in the best way possible and focus on positive learning and behaviors. Each child will learn to the best of their abilities and maximize their potential in the classroom.

6. Rising To Challenges

Educators will also have to rise to this challenge of SBB and make sure the classroom is free of stigma and students coexist well with one another. Students in form classes will have different intellectual abilities, so the educators will have to rise to this task and create a collective strategy for everyone to cooperate.

Interventions will also have to be done to promote the equal status of children in the classroom. So, the government has created not only this new banding for the students but also for the educators. They also need to challenge themselves and rise to the occasion to boost the learning of students by improving their skills.

Teachers will have to be the first ones out of everyone to embrace this new full SBB system in the best way possible. They will have to make the classroom effective and safe for everyone to learn and get something positive out of it. So, it is time for educators to step up and shine in their abilities to make the classroom a positive place of learning and reinforcement for children of all skill levels and intellectual abilities.


Some Challenges With The Full Subject-Based Banding

These were all the reasons that the government has decided to opt for full SBB. However, you need to understand that no system is perfect. There are challenges and limitations that come with each system that you must understand and overcome.

Here are some challenges that might take place because of full SBB:

Moving Can Be Draining

Students that are going for G3 subjects will have to move to another school. While moving can be interesting for some students, others may find it challenging and draining. That is because students find it emotionally draining to move to a new school and find their grounding again.

Besides that, some parents also prefer it when their child is only in one secondary school. So, there are some concerns that the parents have raised about students that have to take the G3 subjects. If they face this challenge, then teachers and parents will have to work together to ensure that the move is not too draining for the child.

As the system changes, we all have to work together to support the students in their journey. Any new change can be challenging, but it can be made much easier with the right support.

Deciding The Bands Of Students

The new system is exciting, but it also creates uncertainty. That is because some parents are not sure how the schools will decide how students move to another level. For example, here are some relevant questions that parents are concerned with:

  • Will the schools take one exam to determine the band, or will they take several?
  • Will the certification be recognizable by reputable schools abroad?
  • Will schools recognize the certification throughout the world?

All of these are relevant questions because parents only want the best for their children. Their education should come in handy regardless of where they are in the world. The MOE will have to answer all these relevant questions to ensure that the parents are at peace with the new SBB.

Such uncertainty can take a toll on parents and students alike. The key is to make everything clear so everyone understands what will happen with the new change.


Final Thoughts

That was everything you needed to know about the full SBB that the government will set into full effect in 2024. There are some schools that have already started this as it is a pilot test for the government to see how smoothly this system will work. So the only way to deal with this change is to gain as much knowledge as you can about it.

Doing this will help you prepare yourself and your children to be ready for the new system of schooling. Once this happens, everything will happen smoothly, and students will be much more comfortable with this new system, which will boost their learning and development for a long time.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.