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Navigating Full Subject-Based Banding (SBB) in Singapore's Secondary Schools

Updated: Jan 24



Introduction

In the evolving landscape of secondary education in Singapore, subject-based banding plays a pivotal role in shaping the educational journey of students. This article offers insights into full subject-based banding (Full SBB) and its impact on secondary school experiences.


PSLE Scoring System

The transformation of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) three years ago marked a significant shift in secondary school placements. The introduction of Achievement Levels (AL) for each subject, ranging from AL1 to AL8, has influenced the subject-based banding process in secondary schools.


Singapore Education Certificate (SEC)

Replacing the O-level syllabus, the SEC provides a comprehensive educational framework, paving the way for progression to higher institutions. This change aligns with the broader implementation of Full SBB.



Singapore Education Certificate (SEC): Education Pathway

Full Subject-Based Banding

Starting with the 2024 cohort, Full SBB will be fully implemented in secondary schools. This approach categorizes students into posting groups based on their PSLE scores, reflecting initial subject levels, with the flexibility to tailor these levels over time.



Full SBB: Posting Groups based on PSLE Score


Subject Levels

Subject-based banding categorizes subjects as G1, G2, and G3, reflecting the existing Express, Normal Academic, and Normal Technical streams. The PSLE score primarily determines the initial posting group and subject-level assignment.


MOE Singapore: Post-Secondary Pathways under Full SBB

Impact on Students

The introduction of Full SBB necessitates early planning and a deep understanding of personal strengths and interests, as it directly impacts subject offerings and levels in secondary school.


Lower Secondary Education

With Full SBB, lower secondary students from various posting groups share mixed-form classes, adhering to a common curriculum. This inclusive approach is a hallmark of subject-based banding in secondary schools.


At the start of Secondary One:

English Language, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics and Science can be offered at a more demanding level based on their PSLE Achievement Level (AL) for each subject.


Demanding level subjects offered at Secondary 1

At the start of Secondary Two:

Humanities subjects (Geography, History, and Literature in English) can be offered at a more demanding level. Criteria are based on students' aptitude for and interest in these subjects at Secondary One.


Demanding level subjects offered at Secondary 2

Common Curriculum Subjects at Lower Secondary

In their mixed-form classes, students will spend around one-third of their curriculum time taking a set of six common curriculum subjects:


Subjects Offered at G1, G2 and G3

English Language, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics, Science, and Humanities subjects will be offered at G1, G2 and G3.


Total of 10 examinable subjects in Secondary 1 & 2.

Examinable & Non-exminable Lower Secondary Subjects

Upper Secondary Education

In upper secondary, compulsory subjects across various streams reflect the subject-based banding philosophy, allowing for specialisation and elective choices that shape future educational pathways.


Subjects at Upper Secondary

Compulsory subjects:

  • English Language 

  • Mother Tongue Languages or Higher Mother Tongue Languages

  • Humanities (Pure/Elective History, Geography, Literature and Social Studies)

  • Mathematics

  • Science (Pure/Combine Physics, Chemistry and/or Biology)


Elective subjects:

  • Additional Mathematics

  • Art

  • Design & Technology


Subjects taken will affect entry into Junior Colleges and Polytechnics.


Elective Subjects and Planning

Subject-based banding also influences the choice of elective subjects, such as Additional Mathematics and Art. Planning for these subjects under the Full SBB framework should start early to maximise future opportunities.


Conclusion

Understanding the nuances of subject-based banding in Singapore's secondary schools is crucial for parents and students. Full SBB offers a tailored educational experience, emphasising the importance of early and informed planning for a successful academic journey.

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