THREE in four students who took a new A-level subject which teaches them to think critically have acquitted themselves well, bagging As or Bs.
All 367 students who took Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) - out of the cohort of more than 13,000 - had at least a passing grade.
At Hwa Chong Institution, seven in 10 of the 69 students who took the subject scored an A, compared with three in 10 who did so for the General Paper (GP).
Students who take up KI, which is offered at a higher level, do not need to offer GP, which focuses more on current affairs with essay questions like 'How do we prepare the youth of today for the challenges of tomorrow?'.
In KI, students tackle questions such as 'How do you know, if at all, if an action is right or wrong?' or 'How do you know table is a table?'.
Yesterday, the students were also reassured by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that top British universities - among them Imperial College, King's College London, Cambridge and Oxford - had affirmed that they would recognise KI as a H2 subject for entry.
H2 subjects are equivalent to A-level standards; students also take subjects at H1 and H3 levels, which are roughly comparable respectively to the AO-level and 'S' papers of the past.
Students had earlier been confused about whether the British universities would accept the new subject for admission, after The New Paper reported that the London School of Economics (LSE) would not accept KI.
The students were worried that other universities would adopt the same stance.
But the ministry said yesterday that though LSE will give preference to other H2 subjects before KI, it would help them with their applications to other universities abroad.
Nanyang Junior College's Sandeep Singh, 19, who scored a C in the subject, is not losing sleep over it because he is hoping to study law at the National University of Singapore.
Nanyang principal Kwek Hiok Chuang said 10 students signed up for KI at first, but four went back to GP on realising KI demanded inquiry and research into philosophy.
Raffles Junior College's Nur Liyana Mohamed Sinwan, 18, said KI was 'intriguing' but opted for GP as she thought it might not suit her.
But RJC student Alex Ang, 18, who took up KI alongside physics, chemistry and maths, said he relished the intellectual challenge: 'It's something which opens up your mind, so you think about what you read, and evaluate the assumptions in your everyday life.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Mar 8, 2008