Under the previous system ...
At the end of Primary 4, students are placed into three streams (EM1, EM2 or EM3) according to their language
abilities. The rationale is to allow children to progress at their own abilities so that they can complete primary education
successfully. The streaming system provides differentiated curricula best suited to the children.
The high-ability children (EM1) are allowed to take an additional subject which is Higher Mother Tongue. The low-ability children (EM3) will take Mother Tongue at basic proficiency level. The majority of the students (EM2) will take Mother Tongue as a second language.
This flowchart shows the progression paths from P4 to P6 under the previous system.
From end of 2004 ...
The Ministry of Education will be making the following refinements to Primary School Streaming to give schools greater flexibility to organise and band their pupils to achieve the best educational outcomes:
- The distinction between the EM1 and EM2 streams will be removed from end-2004. Schools will have the autonomy to decide on how best to band their pupils by ability, in ways that add the most educational value.
In a ministerial statement dated 20 Jan 1999, BG Lee announced that "In primary schools we will relax the criteria for allowing pupils to take HCL (Higher Chinese Language). They can do so provided at Primary 4 streaming they score Band 1 in CL (Chinese Language), and at least Band 2 in English and Mathematics."
EM3 will not be scrapped but will remain as a distinct course of study, focusing on foundational knowledge. The Education Ministry maintained the need for the EM3 stream to help the less academically inclined pupils benefit from being taught separately, using a different curriculum and teaching approach.
I believe this still stands. But if your child qualifies and as you consider this option, note what MM Lee said in Parliament on 25 November, 2004 ...
"You make up your mind just how much English you want for your child and how much Chinese. But remember, the more English the less Chinese, the more Chinese the less English. There is no such thing as 100% English, 100% Chinese ... The choice is yours."
- From 2004, schools will also be given the flexibility to develop their own end-of-year Primary 4 examinations to identify pupils who are capable of studying Higher Mother Tongue (HMTL), or are best served by the foundational programme offered in EM3.
Channel NewsAsia's poll of over 30 schools in August 2004 shows that 9 out of 10 will stick to the Ministry's set of questions for 2004.
• MOE Press Release dated 18 March 2004
• Ministerial Statement by BG Lee on Chinese Language in Schools dated 20 Jan 1999
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