THE A-level certificate is no longer enough for top schools Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Junior College (RJC). They plan to award their own diplomas.
Hwa Chong announced yesterday that it will start giving out diplomas to the top 30 per cent of its graduating students this year.
This will be awarded based on their results in the A-level preliminary exams and achievements outside the classroom, such as winning a medal in maths and science Olympiads.
The diploma will be awarded on top of the A-level certificate, which students will still get, and is meant for university applications.
RJC had said earlier that it is looking into awarding students the Raffles Diploma, which records achievements including academic papers written and SAT scores for entry to American universities. However, it has not confirmed this yet.
The NUS High School of Mathematics & Science is the only school here that currently offers its own diploma - but it does not offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) or A-level course.
Hwa Chong principal Ang Wee Hiong said the diploma would better reflect students' achievements and experiences in their six years at the school.
A Hwa Chong spokesman said the school plans to talk to universities here and abroad to get the diploma recognised. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is the first to recognise the diploma, taking it into account for admission, along with students' A-level results.
The diploma will help Hwa Chong students when it comes to the university's scholarships, said NTU president Su Guaning.
He said he believed Hwa Chong students will have no problem getting into university. The question is how to weigh the diploma against those issued by other schools when it comes to admission into popular courses.
When contacted, the National University of Singapore (NUS) said the diploma will stand the students in good stead.
In a written reply, its vice-provost (education) Tan Thiam Soon said: 'Admission to NUS courses and its scholarships is very competitive, and we think that the Hwa Chong Diploma will provide helpful information in evaluating an applicant.'
Singapore Management University could not reply in time.
Dr Ong Teck Chin, principal of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), which offers the IB, did not think Hwa Chong and RJC's plans to offer their own diplomas reflect the declining importance of the A levels.
'I think the A-level exam still serves an important purpose. It has the advantage of being well-accredited and more widely accepted,' he said, adding that the two schools will have to sort out accreditation issues.
Hwa Chong has set up an advisory board, headed by Professor K.K. Phua, chairman of World Scientific Publishing Company, to look into accreditation.
But Dr Ong asked: 'Double accreditation - is it really necessary?'