Article 3 on the idea of streaming: a general take (i.e. not specific to Singapore) on why streaming is implemented in schools in the first place.

This is something reflected in the original introduction of streaming in Singapore education, on the recommendation of the 1978 report headed by then-Education Minister Dr.Goh Keng Swee — a legacy reflected in a report by McKinsey comparing education systems across the world, including Singapore, which is used as an example of a system that has risen from ‘poor’ to ‘great’ over the decades.

On a political and societal level, this has also been justified as being part of a meritocratic system, but it is easy to forget (or not even realise) that there is supposed to be a pedagogical basis to this — a system where students of differing abilities are able to learn at their respective appropriate pace.


Streaming in Schools: benefits of grouping students by ability

Streaming refers to the grouping of students by ability. Students within a certain ability range are grouped together as a class. The objective is to allow like students to move ahead at a pace which matches their abilities. I am a strong advocate for streaming in high schools. In my experience the results of streaming are more often beneficial than otherwise.

Within a streamed class setting the teacher is able to set a suitable pace for the class and maintain that pace. There is hardly any risk of leaving anyone behind. The entire class is challenged at a level gauged to be appropriate for the whole group.

The teacher can move ahead at a brisk pace with a group of twenty five bright students who do not require much supervision and little or no individual attention. The converse is true for a class of slow students where a more reasonable number to work with would be ten to fifteen if teaching is to be effective. In either situation, the teacher is able to select an appropriate pace and move ahead with it.

In this type of class setting students are able to motivate each other because they possess similar abilities. They can move ahead at the same pace because there are no major disparities in ability within the stream. Students are able to grow in confidence and self esteem since no one is made to feel inferior or stupid among his/her peers. In fact, they offer each other friendly competition which is, in itself, motivational.