Mon, Nov 30, 2009
The Straits Times
Unfair to stream at early stage

DURING my daughter's Primary 1 orientation at Edgefield Primary School about a month ago, she was made to sit through a test of English and mathematics. A week later, when the school announced the Primary 1 class allocation on its website, I discovered the school had used the test as a means to stream (or 'band', as the school calls it) these pupils.

According to the school, the top 62 pupils were grouped equally into two classes and will undergo an 'accelerated programme'. The rest of the cohort were randomly divided into six other classes so each class had pupils with a range of mixed 'academic abilities'.

My question: Is banding even necessary at this stage? I am not a parent who is overly anxious about my child's academic results at this stage. I raise this question because I feel strongly that such a streaming strategy at this early stage cannot be fair to all pupils.

There may be children from lower- income families who have not had the fortune of receiving a kindergarten education. There may also be parents who may not have pushed their children academically at such a young age.

Therefore, the school should accord all pupils an equitable opportunity by putting every child through the same curriculum and pace of learning.

If banding does produce results, then should not the school consider banding throughout or ensure a fair distribution of abilities within each class, instead of the current policy to concentrate the best 30 per cent in the top two classes, while randomly distributing the remaining cohort among the remaining six classes?

The Primary Education Review and Implementation (Peri) committee recommended slowly easing pupils into exams only at Primary 2. If so, why should those entering Primary 1 be made to take a test or exam that determines if they will receive an 'accelerated programme' over their peers?

I urge the Ministry of Education to clarify its stance on the matter.

Lewis Wong

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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