The Big Read: No exams? No problem! Some tuition fees rush in to close the gap, concerned parents

SINGAPORE: Shortly after the announcement by the Ministry of Education last month that the number of examinations for students in primary and secondary education would be reduced, tuition bureau Gavin quickly questioned some parents of her students to find out what they thought of the university. to move.

More than 130 parents responded: although they appreciated the ministry's movement to reduce stress on students, an overwhelming majority (90 percent) said they were worried that it would be more difficult for them to judge how their child at school.

The lowering of the mid-year examinations would not provide them "a real gauge" for the academic performance of the child in the first part of the school year, and they feared it would lead to a "nasty surprise" at the end of the year. exam. said director Gavin Ng of the education center.

He added that the parents with whom he spoke also succeeded to a large extent in keeping the internal examinations in the middle of the year and the end of the year set by his teachers, although the schools did for certain levels.

And he has plans to meet the demand: Next year, the teaching center will officially make its own examinations available to students who are not enrolled at the center. Everyone can sign up to take the exams for a fee.

He is also a pilot of a series of lessons, known as "stress-free learning programs" that focus on "less drilling" and more on experience lessons, such as learning about robotics and coding.

Gavin & # 39; s Tuition is not the only one that responds quickly to the recent changes. Other interviewed agencies and tutors said that in the light of the lowering of exams in schools, they were planning to introduce new programs or to modify their existing ones.

Ignite Tuition Center, for example, plans to introduce more enrichment courses as a supplement to the current college groups for primary and secondary school students.

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Students attending a math class at a primary school. (File photo: TODAY)

Operation Manager Joy Ng said the center will extend its enrichment program with courses on Chinese creative writing and scientific enrichment, for example from next year.

Ignite, with approximately 350 students, also plans to roll out more "individual learning assessments" in the form of unsorted, bimonthly tests during the course.

Such assessments focus on a student's non-academic skills, such as speaking in public and presentation skills, said Ms. Ng.

As part of the changes in the education system, announced by education minister Ong Ye Kung about two weeks ago, the semi-annual examinations for students in Primary 3, Primary 5, Secondary 1 and Sececondary 3 will be removed in stages from next year.

Primary 2 students no longer need to sit for the final exam exams from 2019. At this moment they do not have to take the exams halfway through the year, while Primary 1 students do not have exams halfway through the year or end of the year.

After the announcement Mr. Ong acknowledged that schools or tuition fees will reverse the change by introducing other types of assessments that are similar in nature, but "are not called exams".

Speaking earlier this month on the sidelines of the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference, Ong noted that some college centers had expressed intentions to "simulate research-related circumstances for students to make up for lost exams." ;

"I strongly urge them not to do this," he said, adding:

If you do that, you are only concerned with holding and caring for parents and students.

Some agencies, however, declare that they simply meet a demand.

READ: A hyper-competitive culture breeds severe test anxiety among many students, a commentary


Asked if he felt that the plans of the center were at odds with what the MOE hoped to achieve, Gavin's tuition, Mr Ng, said that he answered "the demands that are there".

Stressed that his center meets the requirements of the CEE in the field of curriculum and syllabus, Mr Ng said that the feedback he received from parents and students was that they always appreciated the ratings asked.

ong ye kung file

Photo of the file of Ong Ye Kung. (Photo: Justin Ong)

Left out of consideration, some apprenticeships claimed that they have long accepted different educational approaches in response to changes in the educational landscape over the years.

KRTC Kent Ridge Education, with 20 branches across the island, has adjusted the educational approach of more than a decade ago and has moved away from a student who focuses on the grade.

His main Max Wong said that for younger students, for example, assignments do not get numbers. Instead, teachers would turn an assignment into a mini-competition for students in class, with rewards such as snacks given at the end of the assignment to encourage good work. He said:

In our marketing (and advertising) we never introduced the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) or O-level performance … we never talked about placing the results of the students.

Like the other interviewed agencies, KRTC has its own set of monthly reviews – known as & # 39; Reviews & # 39; – but no figures or figures are given, Mr. Wong added.

Learning chapters Education Hub has meanwhile already & # 39; mindfulness elements & # 39; included in the lessons.

Managing director Benson Lim said that students will have a five-minute breathing exercise at the beginning of the lessons to improve their "focus and concentration, not only in academics, but in all the things they do", and ultimately to improve their grades .

Learning chapters is looking to incorporate more applied learning into his teaching materials, he added. It is already planning to introduce workshops that use coding to teach mathematics.

Some apprenticeships try to get the best out of MOE's move, but others, especially private teachers, have voiced concerns about the potential consequences.

A private tutor, who would only have given his name as Kenneth, said he was worried that his existing group of students would shrink, which could affect his income.

Kenneth, who has 12 pupils from elementary and secondary schools, said that through interactions with his students' parents, some had commented in passing that "perhaps not so much tuition is needed" as soon as the exam cutting becomes effective.

"(The parents) may not want the tuition fees for the first half of the year, and can only start after 3," he added.

Ms. Eleen Lim, a private teacher who coaches primary school students, added that with the new announcement "there will be a lot of pressure on the teacher of the tuition fees".

ib lesson 3

A school teacher who leads a class (Photo: Justin Ong)

In view of the fact that schools are cutting back on examinations, Ms Lim – who has given one-on-one education in the last 18 years – felt that the "responsibility" lies with the teacher of the tuition fees to provide parents with ongoing progress updates for the parents.

"I foresee much more tense teachers," said Mrs. Lim laughing.

Yet private tutor Darryl Gay, who teaches mathematics and science, found that the time he released after taking halfway examinations halfway through the year would enable him to explore the two subjects more deeply with his students.

He is considering having more time to use video and # 39; s and practical examples to better explain mathematical and scientific concepts to his students.


It is unlikely that the move to reduce research will lead to many parents rushing to get their children out of tuition fees, if the interviews with some of them are an indication.

The interviewees mainly felt that the cutback would do little to curb academic stress, but instead postpone it until the end of the exam.

Others said that the lack of a central & # 39; checkpoint & # 39; – as one of the parents put it – means that they can not follow the study progress of their children. And this is one reason why parents said they would still rely on college groups.

Housewife Sharon Tan, 46, said:

Whether or not you decide not to take an exam halfway through the year, there will be an exam at the end of the year. There will also be national exams to sit for.

Tan, whose two daughters are in primary school, said that "by emphasizing the exams at the end of the year … it will be worse for the child".

"It will not promote healthy learning behavior … (as) consistent with your work," she added.

READ: Parents, do not hesitate from a competitive education system, a comment

Mr. Ian Lum, a 44-year-old digital marketing specialist with two sons in college groups, agreed: "If the school does not keep track of how my children are doing, the only other way to know is by means of college groups. "

Housewife Choon Hui Leng (39) added that class classes her & # 39; insurance & # 39; that her 11-year-old son can handle the strict demands of school.

"My son's teachers will regularly keep me informed of his progress, and if there are areas he needs to improve, we can at least (on the basis of) mentors (him)," added Mrs. Choon.

Generic preschool picture. Photo: TODAY

A child doing homework. (File photo: TODAY)

But there are a few parents who worry about reducing tuition fees for their children.

Said the 38-year-old sales manager Sheeren Hoo: "If the schools reduce the number of assessments, I do not really see the need to put my daughter into training … (at least) until the second term."

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Despite the continuous efforts of the MOE to reduce the stress of students and to put less emphasis on numbers, the education sector – estimated to be worth more than S $ 1 billion a year – can not be ignored, experts say.

Approximately 600 study centers are currently registered with the MOE. "This figure has been stable since the last three years since 2016," said a spokesman for MOE. According to the Education Act, centers offering tuition fees with 10 or more students must be registered with the MOE.

When Mr. Ong announced the range of measures to address academic stress, he told the media that the government did not intend to ban tuition fees.

He pointed out that "it is not a criminal activity," Mr Ong said that parents send their children to school "out of care and care". He added that while there are "goodwill in the community who offer free or cheap tuition fees to help weaker students cope with their studies", there are also negative lecture histories.

The Minister of Education noted that for some students the school was not stressful, but the tuition fee was:

They are very tired on weekday evenings after school, or on weekends, because their day is filled with many lessons.

"The worst they find is that learning is not fun and that the lessons have taken over their days and weekends," said Ong.

He touched the tuition fee again a week later, during the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference.

Apart from a reduction in examinations, the position of a student in the classroom and at the level of his cohort will no longer be reflected in his report books, MOE had announced.

Some education experts agreed that the Ministry's latest measures are a step in the right direction, but found it would be difficult to abolish the tuition fees because it is deeply rooted in the Singapore psyche.

After all, education is the by-product of another eternal national obsession – academic excellence.

READ: Is academic competition really necessary to be the best that we can be? A comment

students (2)

Young people run after a lesson has ended. (Photo: TODAY)

"Timothy Chan, director of the academic division of SIM Global Education, said:" historically, a lot of attention to academic (achievements), said:

As long as the national goal posts are still there (in the form of national examinations) … as long as figures are a key factor, the tuition fees will still be around.

Ms. Denise Phua, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "Society – students, parents, educators and employers – had been conditioned for decades to rely on academic scores as the main success indicator in the educational dashboard."

Associate professor Jason Tan of the National Institute of Education (NIE) added: "The presence of major examinations that act as gatekeepers for further stages of education serves parents' concerns about the competitiveness of their children in relation to their to feed peers in terms of access to preferred schools and courses. "

Associate Prof Tan pointed out that the additional courses in post-secondary education that the CEE had introduced in recent years had not led to a decrease in tuition fees.

"(This is probably) because the question for many parents is not" whether my child can go to post-secondary education ", but rather" what post-secondary place in post-secondary education "," he said.

In a highly competitive culture, "any new change in assessment modes or admission criteria will cause parental fear over new obstacles that must be overcome as part of a competitive race," he repeated.

"For example, the Direct School Admission Examination was intended to indicate the importance of non-academic experiences, but some private tutoring agencies responded by extending their services with coaching for both parents and students on the best preparation for admission," he added. toe. .

READ: Time for universities in Singapore to switch, a comment

Yale-NUS graduation ceremony

Yale-NUS College graduation ceremony. (Photo: Yale-NUS)

More than just a change in policy, the movement to ease the fixation of Singaporeans with tuition fees is something that requires that all parties work together and do their part.

Ms. Phua mentioned the need to inform all stakeholders: "Many do not understand that examinations are only one form of assessment and exam exam alone is not an equivalent learning process, and certainly can not cultivate the habit of self-directed lifelong learning."

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Dr Chan said that while "all major players (in the education sector) have a role to play," the challenge is to change the mindset of parents – and this is something that requires "constant engagement," he added.

Ms. Phua, a member of parliament for Jalan Besar GRC, also reiterated her call to treat the "elephants in the room" – high-stakes exams, such as the PSLE.

"Doing good for high-stakes exams and the preference for popular top schools are still habits hidden in the minds of most people." We must confront these elephants seriously in the room and start driving a few schools where PSLE Does not occur, "she says. said.

Ong set out the position of his ministry on PSLE ​​when he spoke to Parliament in July in response to a motion on the future of education submitted by the nominated MEPs.

Last month he repeated that the PSLE ​​will still exist and described it as a "good feature" in the education system that enables students to take stock of what they have learned during the six years of primary education. It is also an important mechanism for placement in secondary schools, he said.


Students received their PSLE ​​results. (Photo: Channel 8 News)

READ: Is less attention to figures still a necessary benchmark for PSLE?

Nonetheless, Ms. Phua also called on MOE to have deeper involvement with the education sector, to work with its stakeholders and to analyze what they are doing, in order to "come up with even better solutions".

To wean students from school fees, Dr. Chan said that parents should see that school fees do not add value to regular education. When parents feel that what is being treated at school is not enough, they can send their children to school, he noted.

All said and done, Assoc Prof Tan claims that the lesson fixation will take a long time because "it is a personal choice that has proven to resist official attempts to ban it, for example in South Korea".

"International research shows that when private counseling is ingrained in culture, it can not easily be scaled back," he added.

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