Most N(A), N(T) students from pilot scheme achieved passes
MOE's Subject-Based Banding scheme allows students to take subjects at a higher level
He was the only Normal (Technical) student taking Chinese at the Express level in his school. Unity Secondary School's Keane Chua was also taking English at the Normal (Academic) level.
Now 16, Keane, who will soon start a foundation programme at Republic Polytechnic to ready him for the pharmaceutical science course there, believes that having his language strengths recognised in secondary school gave him self-belief.
"It was a chance to deepen my knowledge of the subject - for example, at the N(T) Chinese level, the tests consist of multiple-choice questions but at the Express level, I was doing comprehension, compositions and oral exams. It made me realise that I had the potential if I worked hard and thought positively," he told The Straits Times.
Unity Secondary was one of 12 schools that piloted Subject-Based Banding, introduced in 2014 to allow N(A) and N(T) students who score at least an A for English, Mathematics, Science or mother tongue at the PSLE to take the corresponding subject at the Express level. N(T) students who scored B or C can take the subject at the N(A) level.
They can also take subjects at a higher level if they do well in them after starting Sec 1.
And students selected for the scheme have raised the bar for themselves.
N(A) students from the pilot scheme "performed comparably" with their peers from the O-Level cohort in last year's exams, said MOE, with 90 per cent achieving passes.
Another 90 per cent of N(T) students who took subjects at the higher N(A) level also achieved passes in those subjects last year.
The scheme has been rolled out to all schools offering the N(A) and N(T) courses, and according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Education, 60 per cent of N(T) students and 40 per cent of N(A) students in Sec 1 last year took subjects at a higher level.
For Keane, who was promoted to the N(A) stream from N(T) when he was in Sec 2, getting the chance to carry on his education at a polytechnic is a big achievement after scoring just 149 at the Primary School Leaving Examination.
He added that getting to do subjects at a higher level gave him the motivation to "not be at the bottom anymore".