Starting from 2027, the new Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) will replace the separate N- and O-Level examinations, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing during the Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (Mar 1).
First announced in 2019, the SEC will reflect students’ different subject combinations and levels, in line with subject-based banding that will be rolled out across 120 schools from 2024.
Subject-based banding was first piloted in 28 secondary schools in 2020 as part of MOE’s ongoing efforts to develop multiple pathways catering to the different strengths and interests of students. It has been progressively rolled to more schools since 2022.
Starting next year, all Secondary 1 students will be posted to schools in three groups, based on score ranges of the existing Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams.
These posting groups will only be used to facilitate school admission and guide the subject levels students are offered at the start of the year, but thereafter “will not shape the secondary school experience,” said Mr Chan.
Students will take subjects at a G3, G2 or G1 level, mapped from the current Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) standards. For example, a student who enters a school under posting group 2 will start with mainly G2 subjects, and may have the option to take some at a higher G3 level depending on PSLE scores or if they do well later on.
In schools that take in students from multiple posting groups, the new system will allow for mixed form classes, made up of students from different posting groups and taking subjects at different levels.
This allows for greater diversity within the classrooms, as students who would have previously been separated into streams can now share a form class.
Mr Chan added that the option of spending a fifth year in secondary school will remain available to students who wish to offer subjects at a more demanding level, said Mr Chan.
“This is to allow them to pace their learning and potentially access more post-secondary school pathways,” he said.
Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman said that since post-secondary pathways will no longer be limited by streams, but instead by students’ performance at different subject levels, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will adjust their admission criteria.
The Polytechnic Foundation Programme will expand its intake to students taking G3 subjects, or a mix of G3 and G2 subjects, from 2028. Dr Maliki said this will increase the number of students accepted each year from 1,700 to 2,600.
The programme currently takes in Secondary 4 Normal (Academic) students who have taken the N-Level examinations. Starting with the 2026 intake, students will be admitted in the broad clusters of sciences, design, engineering and technology, as well as humanities, art, media and business.
Dr Maliki added that they will be posted to a specific diploma course after the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.
While MOE said the existing JC admission criteria remains relevant and will be retained, it is reviewing the polytechnic Year 1 admission criteria to better recognise the subject levels taken by students.
The Institutes of Technical Education will also continue to increase spots in its Work-Study Diploma and Technical Diploma for students who prefer a more hands-on style of learning.