Big picture
Major events of this period

Educating a Nation

Emphasis on English and technical education
In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a pressing need for an education system fuelled by the country's economic growth and the post-war baby boom. Increasing emphasis was placed upon the use of English as well as technical education.

The enrolment in Chinese-medium schools continued to decline. In 1959, enrolment in Chinese- and English-medium primary schools was 27,223 and 28,113 respectively. However, by 1978, only 5,298 entered Chinese-medium schools while enrolment in English-medium schools had increased to 41,995.

In 1976, the Shelley Committee was appointed to study the state of technical education in Singapore. In 1979, the Vocational and Industrial Training Board was set up to oversee technical education and industrial training.

More people also opted to do their university studies in English. In 1975, the Chinese-medium Nanyang University increased the use of English in its curriculum. In 1978, Nanyang University was converted to an English-medium university.

Lee's plea: use Mandarin
(ST, Sept 8, 1979)
Speak More Mandarin campaign

Speak More Mandarin
In the mid-1970s, with China opening up in terms of trade, the Government decided to promote the use of Mandarin as the common language for the Chinese. The "Speak More Mandarin, Use Less Dialects" campaign was launched in 1979.

Singapore's economy performed so well in the 1970s that student intake was increased at various educational levels. Enrolment at the secondary level rose from 148,000 (in 1969) to 176,000 (in 1979). Enrolment in vocational and technical institutes rose from 2,800 to 14,000 over the same period. The intake at the Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic rose from about 3,500 (in 1966) to 11,000 (in 1980).

In 1978, a number of reputed Chinese secondary schools became Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools where English and Chinese were both taught at first-language level.


The introduction of streaming
In 1978, the Education Study Team chaired by Dr Goh Keng Swee identified ways to screen out academically weaker students to prepare them for vocational careers. Streaming was recommended as a means of enabling students to learn, at their own pace, varying numbers of languages at different proficiency levels.

This new policy was implemented in 1980. At Primary 4, students are streamed into Normal, Extended or Monolingual streams.

Normal students complete their primary school education in six years, while Extended or Monolingual students complete their education in seven years. For Monolingual students, they are only required to sit for the oral examination for their mother tongue.

In secondary schools, the top 10 per cent of Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLE) passes are streamed into the Special course, where the students study both English and the mother tongue at the first-language level. Those who have done well in their PSLE enter the Express course where they do one first language and one second language. Both Special students and Express students complete their education within four years.

The other students are classified as Normal students who finish their secondary education in four to five years. At the end of their fourth year, they are required to sit for their General Certificate of Education (GCE) N Levels. Those who meet the criteria go on for a fifth year of study and sit for their GCE O Levels.

School starts today along with new education schemes
(ST, Jan 2, 1992)
New streaming policy

A different streaming policy was implemented at the start of the new school year in 1992. At Primary 5, students are streamed into one of three courses (EM1, EM2 or EM3) in which English is studied at first-language level and the mother tongue at either first-, second- or third-language levels.

Moral education and religious knowledge
In 1979, the Ong Teng Cheong Report on Moral Education recommended that a new moral education programme be introduced to primary and secondary schools. The previous textbook for moral education in primary schools, Education For Living, was replaced by a new book called Good Citizen, while in secondary schools, Civics was replaced by Being And Becoming.

In 1982, Religious Knowledge was introduced as a compulsory subject in secondary schools. Students could choose from Bible Knowledge, Islam Religious Knowledge, Buddhist Studies, Hindu Studies and Confucian Studies. At the end of 1989, Religious Knowledge was no longer compulsory and became an elective subject.

In 1984, the Gifted Education Programme was introduced to realise the potential and abilities of intellectually gifted children.

Education in high gear
(ST, Feb 3, 1986)


Improving the education system
In 1986, Education Minister Dr Tony Tan unveiled the Government's plans to invest an extra $3 billion in education over the next 10 years. Some measures to improve the education system included the building of more schools, the introduction of pre-primary education and the pressing ahead of the single-session system in primary and secondary schools. More part-time courses would also be offered to help keep the workforce attuned to changing technology.

New law paving way for govt schools to go independent to be introduced this year
(ST, Sept 3, 1989)
Independent schools

In 1988 and 1989, several top secondary schools became Independent Schools. Each school enjoys more freedom in terms of staff recruitment and curriculum. More teachers are also hired to meet a better student-teacher ratio.

The chance for more to climb academic ladder
(ST, Aug 17, 1980)

In August 1980, Nanyang University merged with the University of Singapore to form the National University of Singapore on a new campus. At around the same time, the Education Ministry announced that it would relax entry requirements for Secondary 1 and increase intake at the pre-university and university levels. This move was taken to meet Singapore's manpower needs in the 1980s.

In 1991, the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) was reconstituted incorporating the National Institute of Education (NIE) to form Nanyang Technological University (NTU). NTI was set up in 1981 to facilitate tertiary education and research in engineering and technology.

SIM to become third, private university
(ST, April 23, 1997)

The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), founded in 1964, was selected to run the Open University Degree Programme in 1992. In 1997, it was announced that SIM would be turned into a private university, run autonomously with help from the private sector. It would specialise in undergraduate financial and business courses.

Classroom goes high-tech
With the addition of SIM, Singapore will have a total of three universities. There are four polytechnics and fourteen junior colleges now. Pre-university education is no longer conducted in secondary schools but taught in either junior colleges or the four centralised institutes.

In 1997, the Government announced that it would spend $2 billion to bring technology into the classrooms. By the end of the six-year plan, all 360 schools would have made extensive use of computers for planning, teaching and electronic mail.



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