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WP proposes small start for through-train plan

SINGAPORE — The morning after the Workers’ Party (WP) mentioned at its election rally the idea of a 10-year through-train programme as an alternative for some students in Singapore’s education system, WP candidate Yee Jenn Jong went into greater detail on how such a proposal could be implemented.

Workers' Party candidates (standing, from left) Yee Jenn Jong, Dylan Ang, Terence Tan and He Ting Ru at a Walkabout at Serangoon Avenue 3. Photo: Ernest Chua/TODAY

Workers' Party candidates (standing, from left) Yee Jenn Jong, Dylan Ang, Terence Tan and He Ting Ru at a Walkabout at Serangoon Avenue 3. Photo: Ernest Chua/TODAY

SINGAPORE — The morning after the Workers’ Party (WP) mentioned at its election rally the idea of a 10-year through-train programme as an alternative for some students in Singapore’s education system, WP candidate Yee Jenn Jong went into greater detail on how such a proposal could be implemented.

It would start small, with two schools in each zone — north, south, east and west — and with about 100 students each year in each school, resulting in between 800 and 1,000 students every year.*

The intention is not to overhaul the education system, but to gradually move away from the stressful nature of schooling here, said Mr Yee, a member of the WP’s five-man team running in Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency, yesterday (Sept 4). He was speaking to reporters after a walkabout in Serangoon Avenue 3.

Mr Yee said he had received feedback from Singaporeans, who wanted to know if the through-train programme will mean overhauling the entire school system.

The WP’s 10-year programme, from Primary One to Secondary Four, would allow students to bypass the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). It is aimed at reducing the stress level created by high-stakes examinations.

Mr Yee added: “We are not saying that they should immediately disband the current system ... I’d like to emphasise (that this) is a very gradual process.” In fact, the through-train programme might not be for everybody, but for those who hope for an alternative to the traditional education path, he said.

Mr Yee pointed out that only by trying out such an alternative arrangement would it allow parents to be aware of other routes beyond the tried-and-tested.

Data collected from the group of students who have undergone a 10-year through-train programme might also help the Government to decide if it might be possible to do away with the PSLE altogether in future, he added.

Mr Yee said the programme could start off with schools that already have an affiliation practice between the primary and secondary schools.

While some have pointed out that the WP proposal might result in transferring pressure to the Primary One level instead of Primary Six as parents rush for schools with the through-train programme, Mr Yee said there is no need to introduce it in top schools. Instead, it could be implemented in neighbourhood schools.

He also pointed out a number of issues with the current sorting system imposed by the PSLE, where the different streams in secondary schools might affect the confidence levels of students who are labelled not as intelligent as their counterparts.

Exams are necessary to help children assess their abilities and make decisions on their future, he stressed, but it might be more helpful to impose such tests when the children are older.

“The Government is also trying to move away from this overly excessive meritocratic system ... Over the past 20 to 30 years, we have moved our education system into a too highly competitive one, where the grades you achieve early in life make a whole lot of difference,” he said.

Mr Yee added: “One of the ways to decelerate this is to provide some alternative ... Now, (parents) have no (other) choice.”

*Clarification: An earlier version of the story said the 10-year through-train programme would start small, with two schools in each zone, and with about 100 students each year. Workers' Party's Mr Yee has clarified that it is 100 students each year per school, resulting in between 800 and 1,000 students every year.

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