Education Minister Heng Swee Keat was expected to announce changes to the Primary School Leaving Examination. Instead, he revealed a bold plan to move the focus away from exams to nurturing all-round students.
He said that to thrive in a complex and ever-changing global environment, academic grades alone will not be enough.
Students will also need to be able to adapt and be self-confident.
He announced that by 2017, all secondary schools will offer an applied learning programme to help students use what they learn to solve real-life problems.
There will also be a learning-for-life programme, in which students will discover their strengths and interests by participating in arts, sports or volunteer activities, and develop soft skills which will help them connect to others. Yet, he was also quick to point out that it will be difficult to implement all these changes. "It is not just about programmes," he said, "but about mindsets..."
Most parents still believe all that matters is aceing exams. The angst voiced during last month's Primary1 registration, as they jostled for places in branded schools, gives proof of that. This will again be evident in three months, when parents pick a secondary school for their 12-year-olds after the release of the Primary School Leaving Examination results.
The information booklet for this admission exercise includes details of co-curricular activities and niche programmes run by various secondary schools. Many are planned to stretch students beyond book smarts. Outram Secondary School, for instance, has for years been running a business and entrepreneurship programme to nurture students' entrepreneurial spirit.