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Singapore, World Leader in Education, Bans Student Rankings

Singapore already one of the world’s top performers in education announced education reforms to de-emphasize competition and focus on individual development.

Singapore, which has one of the highest achieving education systems in the world, just announced it is banning student performance rankings. It will no longer matter whether a child comes first or finishes last in class. Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said students must begin to understand that “learning is not a competition.”

Exams will also be dropped for younger students, while older students will undergo a de-emphasis on individual subject grades.

To emphasize that learning is not a competition, the following performance details will also be dropped in class report sheets:

  • Class and level mean
  • Minimum and maximum marks
  • Underlining and/or coloring of failing marks
  • Pass/fail for end-of-year results
  • Mean subject grades
  • Overall total marks
  • L1R5 (English plus five relevant subjects), L1R4 , EMB3 (English, maths, best three subjects) and EMB1 for lower secondary levels

Singapore Favors Individual Development Over Competition

According to the country’s Ministry of Education, the decision to abolish exam and class performance ratings is to enable each student to focus on individual learning progress. This change will ultimately discourage them from being focused on competition as opposed to learning and will decrease worry about how they perform compared to others.

As from next year, pupils in Primary 1 and 2 will no longer sit for any examinations. Any assessment scores they have for class placement will have little to do with their final grading. This, however, does not mean class teachers will not measure how young pupils and older students perform. Teachers will use interactive sessions, homework and class quizzes to gather information on students’ learning processes.

Rather than use exam marks and grades to evaluate how a student performs in his classwork, teachers will provide “qualitative descriptors” for pupils in Primary 1 and 2 classes. For those in higher primary classes and secondary schools, marks scored in each subject will be rounded off to a whole number without any decimals points. Parents will also be able to obtain information about their children’s class progress at parent-teacher meetings.

While speaking to about 1,700 school teachers and officials, the education minister said coming first or second in class will no longer be the sole determinant of a pupil’s brilliance. He said it is necessary to remove this traditional grading model so that students can understand that learning must not be about competition and comparison.

“Notwithstanding, the report book should still contain some form of yardstick and information to allow students to judge their relative performance, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses,” Ong Ye Kung said.

According to a 2012 survey of worldwide education called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Singapore ranked number two in math worldwide, only Shanghai-China ranked higher.  Singapore was also the third-highest performing country in science and reading, after Shanghai-China and Hong Kong-China.

The U.S. ranked 27th in math, 17th in reading and 20th in science despite spending more than all but four countries per student.

PISA generates their rankings via a triennial international survey which tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students around the world.



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