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Standardise teaching sequence for science topics in primary schools

I am a primary school science tutor in an education centre.

Allowing schools to set their own teaching sequence has disadvantaged some students, says the writer.

Allowing schools to set their own teaching sequence has disadvantaged some students, says the writer.

Ephrem Chong Ming Ee

I am a primary school science tutor in an education centre.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed curriculum hours, particularly during the eight-week circuit breaker, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has removed the last topics from all syllabuses included in the 2020 national examinations. These are known as Common Last Topics.

The topic removed from the Primary School Leaving Examination’s (PSLE) science paper is Interactions within the Environment. 

In reality, there is no Common Last Topic for the PSLE science paper.

This is because MOE allows schools to teach science topics based on their own sequence.

Science textbooks are split into five themes — Diversity, Systems, Interactions, Energy and Cycles — and schools teach the themes according to their own schedules.

This is unlike other subjects, such as mathematics, where students learn topics in sequence from Textbook 6A to 6B.

This has led to an unfair situation for some students.

I know of a Primary 6 student who has already been taught Interactions within the Environment last year, when she was in Primary 5. Her school chose to teach the topic in Primary 5, whereas many other schools planned to teach the topic in Primary 6.

Students from her school, therefore, have to now learn more topics within the limited time they have in 2020.

The number of topics they must learn is not reduced. They wasted time learning well in advance a major topic that is not going to be tested.

This will not be a big issue if there is enough time. But because of the pandemic’s effects on the school year, they now have to cram more topics into a shortened time frame.

Some other students were taught Interactions within the Environment at the start of the year, but their schools stopped teaching the topic immediately in April after MOE and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board announced its removal from the national exams.

Their schools then moved on to their last topic, which was either Forces or Energy.

Students in other schools who were not taught Interactions within the Environment would have a two or three months’ advantage because they have one fewer major topic to learn. They have to learn only two major topics, Energy and Forces, in Primary 6. 

I have another student who was never formally taught a topic in school. When he was in Primary 3, his school did not teach Magnets because the school intended to teach this topic only in Primary 4.

But this student transferred to another school when he enrolled in the Gifted Education Programme in Primary 4. Since most other schools had already taught Magnets, it was not included in the Gifted Education Programme syllabus. 

Allowing schools to set their own sequence of topics has disadvantaged some students.

It would be good if MOE could standardise the sequence of science topics in primary schools to avoid such unfair situations in the future. 

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

primary school PSLE exam MOE

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