Major events of this
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
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.
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
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
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
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
In 1984, the Gifted Education Programme was
introduced to realise the potential and abilities of
intellectually gifted children.
in high gear
(ST, Feb 3, 1986)
Improving the education
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
law paving way for govt schools to go independent to be
introduced this year
(ST, Sept 3, 1989)
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
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.
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
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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