SINGAPORE - Some students found that "many of the things" the
six-year Integrated Programme (IP) strove for during their first four years of studies
were eventually not assessed at the GCE A-level examinations.
Some also reflected that "one of the biggest challenges" they faced
during the IP was in adapting to a lecture-tutorial system at the junior
college level, as they moved towards "a more pen-and-paper assessment/rote
learning style" and away from doing projects.
These findings from a National
Institute of Education (NIE) research study, conducted between 2006 and
2010, have raised a poser for educators: Can the IP truly be integrated and
seamless, and fulfil its pedagogical goals and objectives, if students still
need to be prepared for the traditional pen-and-paper high-stakes A-level
Conducted by Dr Trivina
Kang, a senior lecturer at the NIE's Policy and Leadership Studies Academic
Group, and her co-principal investigator, Dr Jason Tan, the study involved 2,500 students
from 10 schools. Students from seven of the 10 schools also participated in
focus group interviews.
Findings from the Final Report of Integrated Programme Study were published
recently in the book Education in
Singapore: Taking Stock, Looking Forward.
When it was conducted, it was the only funded study focusing on student
experiences across IP schools, said Dr Kang. "Since then, I understand
that the MOE (Ministry of Education) has done studies about the IP, and I am
sure that IP schools have done research into facets of their own programmes as
well," she added.
The IP, which started in 2004 at eight schools, is aimed at the top 10 per cent
of students, who skip the "O" levels and go straight to the
"A" levels or International Baccalaureate (IB). The programme is
aimed at giving students the space to develop intellectual curiosity, while
working on projects and undergoing research attachments. It has become so
popular among students and parents that it would be expanded to 18 schools next
year, up from the current 13.
While she noted that the different IPs have "matured" and made
greater effort to align curriculum, pedagogy and assessment since the last
focus group discussions were conducted in 2009, Dr Kang said there "will
be limits to how much the second half of the IP experience can look like the
first half" as many schools prepare students for the "A" levels.
"Students are also cognisant of the demands of the 'A' levels and make a
conscious choice to be more strategic in how they spend their final year, even
if there are still many non-academic opportunities for them in the IP," Dr
Kang told TODAY.
Parents who have children in the IP felt that the transition from Year 4 to 5
could be smoother. Madam Cynthia Lee, an accounts manager, suggested that IP
schools could have a few modules in Year 3 and 4 that incorporate some form of
lecture and tutorial teaching.
Agreeing, Madam Chan Li Hyan felt the issue could be attributed to the
relatively relaxed environment IP students have, compared to their peers who
are on the "O"- level route. "The jump to 'A' levels seems more
steep, and they start to feel stifled by the system after having more
independence in their studies," said the 45-year-old.
Dr Kang, however, pointed out that the IP schools offer "a plethora of
opportunities for their students", which did not exist for a large number
of pupils before.
"What this diversification of the educational landscape has done is to
give students today more choices to learn and develop in more holistically
ways," Dr Kang said. "This cannot be appreciated fully unless we take
a step back and see what the landscape looked like before the IP - no specialised
schools, no alternative examinations like the IB or the NUS High School
Diploma, and everyone taking the 'O' levels."