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SBB in Secondary Schools: Your Questions Answered (Part 1)

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Streaming as we know it (where students enter the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams in secondary schools), will soon be a thing of the past. What we can expect to see in its place is somthing called SBB, or Subject-based Banding.


So what exactly is SBB and what are its implications?


The current system


Currently, secondary school students are allocated to three different streams based on their PSLE results. This essentially means that students in the respective streams can only take subject at the level that correspond to the particular stream they are in:


  • Express: 4-year course leading to the O-Level examination

  • Normal (Academic): 5-year course leading to the N- and O-Level examinations

  • Normal (Technical): 4-year course leading to the 'N” Level examinations and admission to ITEs


The SBB system


Subject-based banding:

One Secondary School Education, Many Subject bands


In the SBB system, students get to take different subjects at different levels, according to their ability. This is analogous to what students are currently doing in junior colleges, where they take A-Level subjects at the H1, H2 and H3 levels.


At SBB secondary schools, subjects will be mapped to three levels: G1 (or General 1) for 'Normal Technical', G2 (or General 2) for 'Normal Academic' and G3 (or General 3) for Express.

So at the end of their 4 years of education in secondary school, all students (excluding those from IP schools* - see below) will sit for a common national examination, instead of the current O-Level and N-Level examinations.


When will SBB be implemented?


Full subject-based banding was announced by MOE in 2019 to replace the existing system of streaming students into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) based on their PSLE results. The new system will be rolled out by 2024 across all secondary schools i.e. all students entering secondary schools from 2024 onwards will come under the SBB system.


A student in the SBB system in Secondary 1 will take either G1, G2 and/or G3 subjects based on his/her scores for the various subjects in PSLE. The PSLE still serves as a useful gauge of the subject levels that each student is most suited for at the beginning of Secondary 1. Thereafter, they can take subjects at a more demanding level, depending on their abilities as they progress to the other secondary levels.


As of 2022, there are 59 secondary schools which are already implementing the full SBB system. These schools are:


Schools that have implemented full SBB (since 2020)

  1. Ang Mo Kio Secondary School

  2. Assumption English School

  3. Bedok Green Secondary School

  4. Bowen Secondary School

  5. Clementi Town Secondary School

  6. Deyi Secondary School

  7. Edgefield Secondary School

  8. Evergreen Secondary School

  9. Gan Eng Seng School

  10. Greendale Secondary School

  11. Jurong Secondary School

  12. Jurong West Secondary School

  13. Mayflower Secondary School

  14. Montfort Secondary School

  15. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Sec)

  16. Pei Hwa Secondary School

  17. Ping Yi Secondary School

  18. Queenstown Secondary School

  19. Riverside Secondary School

  20. St. Andrew's Secondary School

  21. St. Anthony's Canossian Secondary School

  22. St. Patrick's School

  23. Swiss Cottage Secondary School

  24. Temasek Secondary School

  25. West Spring Secondary School

  26. Whitley Secondary School

  27. Yuying Secondary School

  28. Zhenghua Secondary School

Schools that are implementing full SBB (from 2022)

  1. Admiralty Secondary School

  2. Anderson Secondary School

  3. Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)

  4. Beatty Secondary School

  5. Broadrick Secondary School

  6. Bukit Panjang Government High School

  7. Bukit View Secondary School

  8. CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh)

  9. CHIJ St. Joseph's Convent

  10. CHIJ St. Theresa's Convent

  11. Christ Church Secondary School

  12. Commonwealth Secondary School

  13. Damai Secondary School

  14. East Spring Secondary School

  15. Geylang Methodist School (Secondary)

  16. Holy Innocents' High School

  17. Hougang Secondary School

  18. Hua Yi Secondary School

  19. Juying Secondary School

  20. Kranji Secondary School

  21. Marsiling Secondary School

  22. Ngee Ann Secondary School

  23. Northbrooks Secondary School

  24. Orchid Park Secondary School

  25. Regent Secondary School

  26. St. Hilda's Secondary School

  27. Teck Whye Secondary School

  28. Xinmin Secondary School

  29. Yishun Secondary School

  30. Yishun Town Secondary School

  31. Yusof Ishak Secondary School


What is the rationale for SBB?


While the initial intent of streaming was to reduce dropout rates by ensuring that students could keep up with their lessons, it has also resulted in stereotypes attached to students depending on the streams they are in. Express students, for instance, are viewed as being more studious, while those in N(A) or N(T) are assumed to be less academically capable or not as well-disciplined.


Enter the SBB.

Full SBB is part of MOE's ongoing efforts to nurture the joy of learning and develop multiple pathways to cater to the different strengths and interests of our students. With Full SBB, we will move towards a secondary school education where students learn each subject at the level that best caters to their overall strengths, interests and learning needs.


SBB lets students take a subject at a more demanding level even though they may be from a “lower” stream. For these students, SBB will hopefully boost their confidence, help them shed the negative labels associated with their streams and open up more educational pathways. In addition, greater interaction amongst students is also promoted as students will be in mixed form classes where they can interact with peers of different strengths and interests.

Does SBB apply to IP secondary schools?


The Intergrated Progrmme (IP) culminates in either the A-Level, the IB Diploma or the NUS High Diploma. The idea behind the IP is to allow students to benefit from a broader learning experience in both academic and non-academic aspects, with time freed up from not having to sit for a national examination at the end of Secondary 4.


Hence, the curriculum structure and curriculum content is left to each IP school to design, and can be different from the national secondary curriculum. This being the case students in the IP programme are generally not exepcted to transfer to other educational institutions at the end of Sec 4. Since this is the curriculum design and intent of the IP system, G1, G2 and G3 are therefore not relevant and SBB does not apply.


Final Words for Part 1


Full SBB will give greater flexibility to the general secondary education system. This way, our secondary education system can continue to adapt to students' learning needs, while mitigating the labelling and stigmatisation that is associated with streaming.


Watch this space for PART 2 of SBB in Secondary Schools: Your Questions Answered.


#secondaryschool,#mindstretcher,#oleveltuition,#sbb,#subjectbasedbanding #secschooltuition

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