About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech.)

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About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech.)

Postby guaigirl24 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:51 pm

Hi there (:

I have a younger sister in Primary 6 this year. She is attending a convent school, but it is an "average" one, not too competitive in terms of academics..

She has, somewhat, been struggling with academics since P1.
Based on last year's results, her English marks are in the 40s, Science in the 30s and Maths in the 20s. Exempted from Chinese (and can't really speak or read Chinese, like an angmoh :lol: )

My mother has tried to opt for her to do at least Maths at Foundation level, however, the school objected, saying that they can help her to do better at the standard level. Main reason is that, apparently, once you take a Foundation subject, you can only go to the Normal stream.

However, my sister's maths tutor advises that it is better to do Foundation because, with her marks now, she could fail the PSLE if she gets a U grade for a subject :sick:

Nerve-wrecking.

guaigirl24
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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby guaigirl24 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:06 pm

My mum feels that it will be better for her to go to the Normal stream. She has seen us (my sister's 3 older siblings) gone through secondary school and she feels that my sister will not be able to take the stress/pressure/academic rigour.

Well, actually it is quite the opposite. She is not at all stressed or very much bothered/concerned about her studies...


However, all 3 of us older kids have gone through Express stream, so we do not know much about the Normal stream.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I know,

N(A) is similar to Express, just that after 4 years, take N-Levels, then the following year (Sec 5) either take O-Levels, or go to Poly under PFP.
I find this quite a silly idea. Take 2 national exams in consecutive years, and both are about the same standard??

N(T) is supposed to be a more hands-on and vocational approach (???) but from one person whom I know, is it also the same, study, go for tuition etc., then they take N(T)-Levels after 4 years and then go to ITE.

What is the difference between ITE and Poly education?
Can N(T) students go to Poly directly after secondary school? From the education progression chart thingy from MOE, N(T) students have to go ITE, the Poly... why?


http://www.cutoffpoint.sg/images/sg-edu ... dscape.jpg

Your advice is greatly appreciated! :smile:

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby TheWriter » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:53 pm

Hello guaigirl24

The education landscape has changed tremendously since I last sat for my N and O levels.

Should your sister take Foundation subjects

Hopefully not, but this is my personal opinion. The school is right, in that offering foundational level subjects in a way dooms the child to the Normal stream and is an insidious replacement for what used to be EM1, EM2 and EM3 streaming at Primary 4.

Maths, Science and even English (which I teach) at the PSLE level can be reduced to a set of rules and strategies to apply conscientiously. You may not develop a love for the subject, but you will do decently well. My hunch is that the school is hoping to instil these rules and strategies, but whether or not these will be picked up by your sister depends very much on her emotional maturity. There isn't a definitive answer in this case.

2 national examinations?
Your summary of N(A) students taking N, then O-levels/PFP is correct. However, the standards for N-levels is a lot easier. The rationale for having two national examinations for N(A) is that the N-level exam is a filter. Those who did badly even at N-levels, or borderline cases ("I didn't die at N levels but the scores tell me I probably will die at Os") will head to ITE. Those who then remain will mug harder and try to do well enough to qualify for poly. N(T)s in my time didn't have this option; they were destined for ITE the minute they got into that stream. If I am not wrong, they are still not given the option to proceed to Polytechnic. I had a friend who did O levels as a private candidate during his first year of ITE just so he could enter a polytechnic the following year.

ITE vs Poly

Polytechnic, at its root, is still a vocational college. It was founded to meet demands for skilled workers. It is only in the new millennia that it went through a facelift, rebranding itself as a viable alternative to the Junior College route by offering specialised diplomas that are arguably more academic than vocational, such as Chinese studies or Biomedical Science. However, the stigma associated with the place has not gone, even as young students embrace it as a vibrant, hip school. This would be its main difference from ITE in my opinion, but I may be mistaken.

Final words
I have tried to address all your questions to the best of my ability. In summary,

1) Despite revamps to the education system, it is still very much a funnel. Old systems of sorting students (that our generation railed against) have only given way to new ones under the guise of "Foundational" level subjects and PFP.

2) Whether or not your sister should opt for N(A) is not easy to answer. You will have to bear in mind that being in N(A) means she will be in an environment of (mostly) unmotivated students, and teachers who will consciously or unconsciously pre-judge and set lower expectations of them. It is hard to do well when you live in a system where your friends don't care, your teacher sets a low bar and the system tells you you are so dumb you need to stay in secondary school an additional year.

TheWriter

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby guaigirl24 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:30 pm

TheWriter, thank you for your response and sharing! :udaman:

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby guaigirl24 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:38 pm

sigh... that's the way our education system is..I don't understand why they must make the streams so rigid.
I know of friends on primary school who were in the "worse" class and took foundation subjects, yet did Higher Chinese too. They went into Normal stream and did well academically. It is unfair that they have to stay in secondary school for an extra year. In fact, I don't see the rationale behind using a national exam as a "funnel" to determine whether a student is "good enough" to... sit for another national exam! :scratchhead:

Do you mind sharing, did you go to JC, Poly or ITE after your O-Levels?

We would like to know more about the N(T) programme and the pathways after finishing secondary school.

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby slmkhoo » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:43 am

guaigirl24 wrote:sigh... that's the way our education system is..I don't understand why they must make the streams so rigid.
I know of friends on primary school who were in the "worse" class and took foundation subjects, yet did Higher Chinese too. They went into Normal stream and did well academically. It is unfair that they have to stay in secondary school for an extra year. In fact, I don't see the rationale behind using a national exam as a "funnel" to determine whether a student is "good enough" to... sit for another national exam! :scratchhead:

I think you should re-examine some of your premises. I have a daughter who is weak academically, and so maybe I have a lightly different take on things. I also have a daughter in a highly-rated IP school, so I think I can see things from both ends of the spectrum.

Points to ponder:
Why should it be 'unfair' to take an extra year in school? Your friends did well academically in the end, and maybe that extra year helped? I am intentionally building extra time into my daughter's schooling as I feel that will help her cope better. And financially, it means another year of educational subsidy from the government.

Why do you object to 'funnelling'? Although I am not in favour of streaming in pr school, I do support streaming at higher levels for the benefit of the various groups of students. Students who are very advanced can be bored and demotivated if held back, and students who are struggling can be lost and demotivated if pushed too fast. Either case is bad. I don't like separating the streams as much as they are in our current system, and I would like to see more flexible lateral movements to handle kids who 'wake up' or want to slow down later, but that's another issue.

For your sister, take a good look at her strengths and maturity. Maybe the extra time is what she needs if she is a later maturer. Maybe the slower pace is what she needs if she is slower to grasp new concepts. A concern is the perceived lack of motivation of peers if she is easily-influenced. My daughter isn't easily-influenced, so that is not one of my worries. Being pushed to keep up can be very stressful and demoralising even if she doesn't show it (yet). All these factors need to be weighed when helping your sister make decisions about her educational future. But taking the slower, less-prestigious path is not necessarily the worse choice.

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby teachingmum » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:17 am

There are pupils who took foundation subjects and were offered Express.

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby beanbear » Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:52 am

If your sister is getting 20+ marks for Math, it may be worth considering taking it at Foundation level and taking other subjects at standard level. If she is already failling all subjects, it may be an indication that she is not ready for "express" stream.

My DD, also was borderline/failling in Maths and borderline for Science and English, did well to go to NA. She is now very happy in her school as she is doing well so far in the tests and feel that the pacing is better for her.

Some of my dd's friends who took Fdn level did very well and could go to express stream with 190+ PSLE score. On the other, some kids who took all standard subjects but were already struggling ended up in NT as they really could not cope with the standard level of testing.

This is a strategic move that your parents need to consider carefully. A "U" grade for a subject could put your sister in the NT stream.

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby kitty2 » Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:40 am

beanbear wrote:If your sister is getting 20+ marks for Math, it may be worth considering taking it at Foundation level and taking other subjects at standard level. If she is already failling all subjects, it may be an indication that she is not ready for "express" stream.

My DD, also was borderline/failling in Maths and borderline for Science and English, did well to go to NA. She is now very happy in her school as she is doing well so far in the tests and feel that the pacing is better for her.

Some of my dd's friends who took Fdn level did very well and could go to express stream with 190+ PSLE score. On the other, some kids who took all standard subjects but were already struggling ended up in NT as they really could not cope with the standard level of testing.

This is a strategic move that your parents need to consider carefully. A "U" grade for a subject could put your sister in the NT stream.


Well said but getting an U grade for Maths & English need to retain!I have a friend's son scoring As for other subjects but got an U for Maths,he needed to repeat his P6!

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Re: About Foundation subjects, Normal (Acad.) & Normal (Tech

Postby BlueBells » Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:45 am

I know of a few youngsters who have taken the "N" level -> ITE -> Poly -> Uni route. One of them is currently in NUS now. So I believe, NT -> ITE will also stand a chance at poly and university.

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