Students will take the National Physical Fitness Award (Napfa) test every alternate year instead of annually, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Thursday.
The change, which will come into effect next year, will support a far-reaching revamp to the Physical Education (PE) syllabus which aims to encourage children to keep fit beyond school and instil more holistic values.
MOE's director of student development curriculum, Madam Liew Wei Li, said that conducting Napfa tests in alternate years - in Primary 4 and 6, Secondary 2 and 4 or 5, and Junior College Year 2 - "creates time and space for us to carry out a larger range of activities".
The way PE is graded will also change as part of the revamp, which will be rolled out progressively from next year and introduced in all schools by 2016. Instead of scoring A to C, report cards will provide a qualitative description of a student's ability on six fronts. They include the values and attitudes demonstrated during lessons, participation levels, and how much students take part in physical activities with family and friends outside of school.
Performance in the Napfa test will be assessed using bands from "Outstanding Performance" to "Needs Improvement", and the student's body mass index will be included.
This new grading system, which will be implemented in all schools in 2016, reflects the new PE syllabus' focus on recreational sports and team play, instead of competitions and passing the Napfa test.
One primary school teacher whom The Straits Times spoke to said that in the months leading up to the Napfa test, a large portion of PE time is used to train pupils for the various stations, including the standing broad jump and a 1.6km run. Secondary and JC students have to run 2.4km.
"With the test now (conducted) once every two years, we have more time to engage the pupils in other sports and activities," said Mr Jasni M. Jasmin, head of department of PE at Yio Chu Kang Primary.
Students and parents also welcomed the change. Primary 4 pupil Mohammad Aqil Dany hopes this means more time playing sports he enjoys, such as football. "I'm not worried about lagging behind in the Napfa test, because I can start training for it in Primary 5," said the 10-year-old from Yio Chu Kang Primary.
Businesswoman Jane Ting, who has two sons in Farrer Park Primary, added: "The Napfa test, if you fail you have to retake it. So if it is not conducted annually, the children will not be so stressed out about passing."
MOE's new syllabus will increase PE time across all schools. Primary school pupils will have between two and 21/2 hours of PE every week, while secondary students will see their weekly lesson time double to two hours.
Primary pupils will be given a foundation in fundamental movement skills, through activities such as athletics, dance and gymnastics.
At the secondary level, students will focus on developing skills via six activities, such as badminton and gymnastics. They will also take part in three intra-school recreational sports competitions.
Time spent learning outdoors will also be increased, so as to help students raise their confidence in new environments.
Professor Michael Chia, dean of faculty affairs at the National Institute of Education, said the revamped syllabus is needed in an age where students spend much of their free time indoors watching TV or playing on their computers and game consoles.
"Young people and adults are increasingly sedentary," he added.
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