Students and teachers alike adapt to mixed classes and different schedules as Edgefield Secondary School makes progress in implementing Full Subject Based Banding programme.

When Normal Academic (NA) student Tan Yi Lin was offered the opportunity to take Literature at the Express Level, she hesitated.

“I felt happy to be offered Literature at Express level, but also nervous at the same time. I wasn’t sure about my subject combination choices and whether I could cope, however, I knew I didn’t want to waste the opportunity,” Yi Lin said.

Edgefield Secondary School was selected to be one of the 28 secondary schools selected by the Ministry of Education to start piloting aspects of Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) from 2020 onwards. 

With Full SBB, the move towards one secondary education with many subject bands, is meant to fulfil the goal of better meeting students’ learning needs, without labels. The goal is to recognise the strengths and interests of the students, and to help them build their confidence and develop an intrinsic motivation to learn for life in them.

Naturally, some students were initially apprehensive about attending lessons with students from other streams. 

“You might be the only NA student in a class of Express students! It can make you may feel like you have to keep up with the standards and fear that you can’t cope. There’s some ‘competition’ between everyone in terms of results,” Yi Lin, now a Sec 3 student, admitted.

But she’s managed to turn this into a positive experience. “Being in this environment makes me work even harder.” 

She also found ways to cope with the greater demands of Literature at the Express level, by studying with friends. “We try out questions together and share our answers, and guide each other.” Yi Lin now takes 3 Out of Stream (OSS) subjects, including Geography at the Express level. 

Sec 3 student Davian Chew found a similar source of help in his Express English class, as he found that he now had to answer questions in greater detail. 

“If I don’t understand something my friends would explain it to me.”

English at the Express level was not Davian’s first attempt at SBB. In Sec 2, he was offered a chance to do Express level Math. But Davian found it hard to cope and returned to his former Math class. 

“I was discouraged but realistic. It was nice that my friends didn’t make fun of me for coming back,” Davian said, which is why he was ready to give English at Express level a chance.

However, fitting in with the new environment took time. “It’s normal for new students to feel distant at first,” Davian laughed. But friends came to the rescue again.

“My friends helped me to know my new classmates better. After a while, everyone became more accepting of me.”

Eventually, each form class in Edgefield Secondary School will comprise of students from the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical Stream). This common learning experience is meant to create a valuable setting for students to mingle, build meaningful friendships, and appreciate different perspectives. It can also help reduce the inadvertent labelling associated with streaming.

Students take half of their lessons, such as CCE, PE, Art, Design and Technology and Music together as a form class while they are regrouped for subjects English, Mother Tongue languages, Mathematics and Science.

Mdm Yeo Bee Siew whose daughter took SBB subjects last year and is now in Secondary 2 said, “When my daughter interacts with her friends, they don’t refer to which stream they’re from. It helps that the school culture doesn’t label students based on their streams. I’ve noticed that she’s motivated to study with her friends, and they communicated with each other online to discuss schoolwork during the HBL period. All this helped her smoothly transition to Express stream this year.”

FSBB has brought about changes for the teachers as well, but the guiding principle to their planning is student-centric, with the objective of FSBB being that it allows students to take the subjects they are most suited for.

Mdm Yeo Ai Chin, the teacher in charge of the FSBB programme, says lesson planning is not as different as one would expect. “Lesson planning is more or less the same. In single stream classes, students would already have different pace of learning anyway. We still need to table our attention and our lessons according to each of the students’ pace of learning. Perhaps the key difference for teachers is the need to be more mindful about being inclusive – for example, be more deliberate in groupings for group work or discussions to ensure a good mix of students.”

The role of the teacher is indeed key in ensuring the success of the FSBB programme.

“The teachers have given the most support in helping us cope with Express level subjects. They push us to do better, and I feel motivated by that!” Davian said.