Understanding MOE’s Full Subject-Based Banding in Singapore

As part of the Ministry of Education's continuous commitment to fostering the joy of learning and creating pathways to accommodate diverse student strengths and interests, Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) presents an innovative approach to secondary school education.

Full Subject-Based Banding represents a significant shift in secondary education. In this model, students engage with each subject at a level that aligns with their individual strengths, interests, and learning needs. Going beyond the traditional four Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) subjects, Full SBB extends SBB to include Humanities subjects at a more challenging level from Secondary 2 onwards.

The journey of Full SBB began in 2020 when it was first introduced in 28 secondary schools in Singapore and it is being progressively rolled out to more secondary schools each year, from 2022 to 2024.

Full SBB brings about a fundamental transformation in the way students are grouped. The traditional Express, Normal Academic , and Normal Technical streams are replaced by a more inclusive approach. Students now find themselves in mixed-form classes, fostering an environment where they can interact with peers of different strengths and interests. This not only encourages collaboration but also provides a more holistic learning experience.

What is Full Subject-Based Banding (FSBB)?

Full Subject-Based Banding is a new educational framework set to be introduced in secondary schools across Singapore. Its primary goal is to offer students increased flexibility in their learning journey, empowering them to select subjects aligned with their strengths, interests, abilities, talents, and learning requirements.

The comprehensive nature of Full Subject-Based Banding is crafted to enable students to assume responsibility for their learning, fostering a growth mindset that encourages lifelong learning. This initiative will also expand the array of post-secondary pathways available to students.

When will FSBB be Implemented?

Commencing with the Secondary One cohort of 2024, Full Subject-Based Banding will be seamlessly integrated into Singapore's secondary education system.

Goals & Benefits of FSBB

Focus on Interests: FSBB enables students to concentrate on subjects they are genuinely passionate about, fostering a deeper engagement with their studies.

Tailored Curriculum: The framework ensures a curriculum that adapts to individual strengths and needs, offering a more personalised learning experience.

Expanded Subject Coverage: Full SBB goes beyond the four PSLE subjects, allowing eligible students to pursue Humanities subjects at a more challenging level starting from Secondary 2.

Reduced Dependence on PSLE Scores: FSBB liberates students in Singapore from being restricted by their PSLE scores, granting them the freedom to explore subjects from the very first year of secondary school.

Early Subject Exploration: By allowing students to delve into subjects in Secondary 1, FSBB facilitates a deeper understanding of subjects, enabling a more informed and strategic approach to education.

Curriculum Under FSBB

Students entering Secondary One in 120 secondary schools will have the opportunity to engage in the Full SBB experience, which affords enhanced customisation and flexibility tailored to each student's learning needs.

Upon assignment to a Full SBB school in Singapore, students will be organised into mixed-form classes. Each form class will consist of students enrolled in various courses, promoting a diverse and inclusive learning environment.

At the commencement of Secondary One, students have the option to pursue English Language, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics, and Science at a more challenging level, determined by their PSLE Achievement Level (AL) in each respective subject. Subsequently, as they progress beyond the initial stage of Secondary One, students may choose to undertake these subjects at a higher difficulty level based on their performance during their secondary school years.

Starting from Secondary Two, students enrolled in schools adopting the Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) approach will also have the opportunity to take Humanities subjects (Geography, History, and Literature in English) at a more advanced level. The criteria for opting for a higher difficulty level in Humanities subjects will be contingent on students' demonstrated aptitude and interest in these subjects during Secondary One.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) will facilitate the transition of Primary 6 students to Secondary 1 through three distinct Posting Groups: Posting Group 1, 2, and 3. These groups will be assigned based on PSLE scores, aligning with the existing PSLE score ranges for Express, N(A), and N(T) streams. 

PSLE scores offer a reliable indicator of the subject levels students can undertake at the onset of Secondary 1. In the context of Full Subject-Based Banding, students will have the opportunity to enrol in subjects such as English Language, Mother Tongue Languages, Mathematics, and Science at G1, G2, or G3 levels, corresponding to the standards set for N(T), N(A), and Express subject levels, respectively. 

Upon reaching Secondary 2, students will also have the option to pursue Humanities subjects (Geography, History, and Literature in English) at a more advanced level. This shift aims to enhance flexibility in tailoring students' learning experiences and move away from a system based on stream-specific subject offerings.

Within their mixed-form classes, students will allocate approximately one-third of their curriculum time to engage in a set of six common subjects: Art, Design & Technology, Food & Consumer Education (Examinable), Music, Physical Education, and Character & Citizenship Education (Non-examinable).

How It Affects Secondary School Students

The organisation of students into mixed-form classes promotes interaction with peers of different strengths and interests.

Starting with the graduating cohort of 2027, students will undertake the newly introduced Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examination, featuring distinct papers for each subject level. The SEC awarded to students will accurately represent the subjects and their corresponding levels chosen by the students.

This mirrors the structure of the A-Level examination, where students are assessed at H1, H2, and H3 levels, as well as the PSLE, where students are tested at either standard or foundation levels. Until the graduating cohort of 2026, students will adhere to the existing system, participating in the GCE O- and N-Level examinations.

Junior College

The current admission criteria for Junior Colleges (JCs) will be maintained to ensure that students possess a solid academic foundation for accessing the A-Level curriculum.

Polytechnic

The Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP), presently a 1-year program catering to eligible N(A) students, offering a practical preparatory path to polytechnic education, will undergo expansion. The Ministry of Education plans to broaden the PFP's scope, accommodating a diverse range of learners with different subject combinations at various levels. 

Beginning with the Academic Year 2024 intake, modifications to the PFP will include:

  • Relaxing the grade requirement for two 'Best' subjects in ELMAB3 (English Language, Mathematics, Best 3 subjects) from G2 Grade 3 to Grade 4.
  • Maintaining ELMAB3 at a raw aggregate score of 12 points or better (excluding CCA bonus points) and upholding subject requirements for English Language and 'Relevant' subjects.

Commencing with the Academic Year 2026 intake, PFP admissions will adopt a cluster-based approach, categorising students into three broad clusters: (i) Sciences, (ii) Design, Engineering & Technology, or (iii) Humanities, Art, Media, and Business. Students will be subsequently assigned to specific diploma courses based on their interests and PFP performance.

By the Academic Year 2028 intake, the PFP will be expanded further to allow students with G3 subjects or a mix of G2 and G3 subjects to access the program. This change aims to eliminate the current stream-based admission restriction applicable only to N(A) students.

The Ministry of Education is also conducting a review of the Year 1 admission criteria for polytechnics, with details to be provided in the future.

Institute of Technical Education

Meanwhile, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is transitioning all Nitec courses to an enhanced three-year curriculum leading directly to a Higher Nitec certification. This transition is expected to be completed by the Academic Year 2026, and from the Academic Year 2028 onwards, the admission requirements for direct entry into Year 2 for all Higher Nitec courses will be set at G2. Consequently, students with a combination of G3 and G2 subjects can apply for direct entry into Year 2 of Higher Nitec, provided their ELMAB3 aggregate score is 19 points or less.

Support Your Child Through Full SBB

As a parent, understanding your child's educational journey is crucial, especially in the evolving landscape of Full Subject-Based Banding. This new framework in Singapore's secondary education system requires active parental involvement to ensure the best support for your child's learning experience. To stay updated and engaged with Full Subject-Based Banding, we encourage you to visit the official MOE FSBB portal.

At illum.e, we understand the significance of adapting to the new FSBB system. We have embraced this change wholeheartedly, aligning our teaching materials and methods to cater to the upcoming FSBB curriculum. Our commitment to providing quality education remains unwavering, and we are dedicated to supporting both students and parents through this transition.

We invite you to join our lessons at illum.e and be part of an educational journey that prepares your child for success in the FSBB environment. Our experienced tutors are committed to providing the necessary support, insights, and strategies to help your child excel under the FSBB system. Consider enrolling in illum.e’s English tuition, Humanities tuition, Geography tuition and History tuition classes to make a lasting impact on your child's academic journey.