Abolishing streaming and replacing with subject-based banding: nothing but a cosmetic joke

The thing with the just-announced ‘Subject-Based Banding’ for secondary schools in Singapore, does it remove streaming or does it make streaming even more defined?

Under the new system, G1 subjects correspond to the Normal (Technical) standard, Ong Ye Kung said. G2 subjects correspond to the Normal (Academic) standard and G3 subjects correspond to the Express standard.

Take the hypothetical situation that students take 3 subjects for their ‘O’ Levels at Secondary 4, with the different G-subject combinations and grades according to the following:

[1] G3 (A grade), G3 (A), G3 (A)

[2] G3 (A), G3 (A), G2 (A)

[3] G3 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A)

[4] G2 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A)

[5] G2 (A), G2 (A), G1 (A)

[6] G2 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A)

[7] G1 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A)

Instead of 3 streams, now do we have 7 streams?

An extended version with 4 subjects would look like this:

[1] G3 (A grade), G3 (A), G3 (A), G3 (A)

[2] G3 (A), G3 (A), G3 (A), G2 (A)

[3] G3 (A), G3 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A)

[4] G3 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A)

[5] G2 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A)

[6] G2 (A), G2 (A), G2 (A), G1 (A)

[7] G2 (A), G2 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A)

[8] G2 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A)

[9] G1 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A), G1 (A)

Does this now make 9 streams?

Now, take this and multiply by the number of subjects students have to actually take (6 to 8, at least), and then by the more refined grading (A1, A2, B3, B4, etc.).

I want to be happy about the change but at the same time, I know the PAP will not let go of their elitist ways – the PAP’s DNA is built on Lee Kuan Yew’s eugenics beliefs, as such that will always be at the core of their policymaking, in the foreseeable future.

As some commenters have said online, whether or not streaming is supposedly “removed” in secondary schools, it still exists to segregate students into the junior colleges, polytechnics and ITEs, this has not changed.

And as long as such segregation exists, students will still be streamed somehow.

As such, the ‘Express’, ‘Normal (Academic)’ and ‘Normal (Technical)’ streams have been removed in name, but have they only been replaced by a more refined way of streaming, as outlined in [1] to [7 or 9, or more] above?

Strange, no, why the PAP government announced that streaming will be “removed” but did not say how students will be streamed into the junior colleges, polytechnics and ITEs?

I suppose a good consequence of abolishing streaming altogether is that students will no longer be judged because they were assigned to the Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) routes, but will this only be replaced yet by another set of new labels? Say for instance, I was from 8 G3s, or I am from 5 G3s and 3 G2s?

Or, will we still be recognised by the junior college, polytechnic or ITEs that we go to? I want to believe, but can I? Or should I?

Remember, the PAP has always been good at making cosmetic changes to market themselves. Policies might change on the surface but their core working mechanisms do not.

What will really make segregation go away? When students are respected and valued no matter what they earn when they become workers, regardless of their educational qualifications.

What would truly equalise the system: narrowing wage gaps between different educational levels. In the Western European countries which have one of the highest educational standards in the world, workers of different educational levels do not earn drastically different salaries, unlike Singapore which has the widest wage gaps among the developed countries, between different educational levels.

In some of these countries, workers in vocational industries (ITE-equivalent) earn even higher salaries than those with degrees, because of their unique skill sets.

When we value each and every worker according to the unique skills they bring and pay them equitably, this is what will effectively eliminate the segregation we see in Singapore today, where people are still judged and looked upon based on their jobs, and the value that is assigned by the government to their jobs. And so, ITE graduates earn an average of S\$1,700, polytechnic graduates earn an average of S\$2,200, private university graduates earn an average of S\$2,700 and public university graduates earn an average of S\$3,300, and the Worker’s Permit, S Pass and E Pass, which are correspondingly pegged to them.

No other developed country has such a high wage gap. In fact, the average wages of ITE and polytechnic graduates in Singapore are even lower than the minimum wages of most Western European countries.

The PAP can amend their policies until the cows come home, but until we put our money where our mouth is, it is always going to be hot air.

This post first appeared on the FaceBook wall of Mr Roy Yi Ling Ngerng. You may wish to share your perspectives and afterthoughts with him on the page itself.