ST Sep 28, 2006Another good move by the Singapore government, how surprising. Perhaps Tharman has finally educated himself about the well-documented Rosenthal Effect. In a nutshell, studies have shown that young kids who are labelled and treated as "smart" will really become smarter (demonstrating a clear jump in their IQ scores over a one-year period), while young kids who are labelled and treated as "slow" or "stupid" will really become slower and stupider.
EM3 stream to be dropped from 2008
Pupils will be grouped according to ability in specific subjects
By Jane Ng
THE EM3 stream, on the way out over the past few years, is finally being scrapped.
The hugely unpopular stream - which groups the weakest primary school pupils together - will be junked in 2008.
Students will instead be banded according to their strengths in specific subjects.
For example, a student strong only in mathematics will study it at the standard PSLE level - but he will take English and Mother Tongue at the easier foundation level, which covers the basics.
Currently, he would be studying all three at the foundation level - branding him as a weak student.
The change, which will take effect for students entering Primary 5 in 2008, was announced yesterday by Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at his ministry's annual Work Plan Seminar.
It is the culmination of a series of amendments made to the primary school streaming system over the past few years.
In 2004, the EM1 and EM2 streams were merged, allowing pupils to take Higher Mother Tongue, which was previously offered only to those in EM1.
Before that, EM1 students did both Mother Tongue and English at a higher level, while EM2 pupils took Mother Tongue as a second language.
The lines were blurred further that year, when schools were given the go-ahead to merge the EM3 stream with the rest of the cohort for non-academic subjects such as music and art.
For some time now, educators and MPs have asked for the EM3 stream to be done away with altogether, saying that it hurts student morale.
Research shows however that the Rosenthal Effect becomes less and less pronounced among older kids. One possible explanation is that older kids are more likely to have already formed their self-concept. That is to say, due to their experiences in their younger years, they already believe that they are smart (or stupid), and therefore behave accordingly. If negative labelling has already damaged a child's self-esteem and self-concept in his earlier years, it becomes harder to later convince him that he actually is bright and has the capability to do well.
We will never be able to quantify how badly the self-esteem of older generations of Singaporeans had been damaged by streaming in our education system. Still, at least it looks that the system will be going less wrong in the future. Hopefully, the sad state of affairs described here will one day become a thing of the past.
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