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Maria Almenoar
Sat, Sep 29, 2007
The Straits Times
Top spot for school that turns students around

WHEN Latha Devakumar entered St Margaret's Secondary, she was shy and had little confidence in herself.

She was also an average student from St Margaret's Primary with an aggregate score of 184 in the Primary School Leaving Examination.

MOE honour roll so far
SCHOOL EXCELLENCE AWARD


2004

  • Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
  • Raffles Institution
  • River Valley High

2005

  • Dunman High
  • Xinmin Secondary
  • Raffles Junior College

2006

  • Cedar Girls' Secondary
  • Raffles Girls' School (Secondary)

2007

  • Crescent Girls'
  • Hwa Chong Institution
  • Nanyang Girls' High
  • Tanjong Katong Secondary
  • Victoria Junior College

SCHOOL DISTINCTION AWARD

2004

  • Anderson Secondary
  • Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
  • Cedar Girls' Secondary
  • Crescent Girls'
  • Dunman High
  • Nanyang Girls' High
  • Ngee Ann Secondary
  • Raffles Girls' School (Secondary)
  • Raffles Institution
  • River Valley High
  • Tanjong Katong Secondary
  • Xinmin Secondary
  • Hwa Chong Junior College
  • Raffles Junior College
  • Temasek Junior College
  • Victoria Junior College

2005

  • Pasir Ris Primary
  • Raffles Girls' Primary
  • Chung Cheng High (Main)
  • Nan Hua Secondary
  • St Joseph's Institution
  • Temasek Secondary
  • Hwa Chong Institution
  • National Junior College

2006

  • Gongshang Primary
  • Fairfield Methodist Secondary
  • Methodist Girls'
  • Anderson Junior College

2007

  • Chongfu Primary
  • Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary
  • Nanyang Primary
  • Pei Chun Public
  • Rulang Primary
  • St Hilda's Primary
  • Temasek Primary
  • Bukit Panjang Government High
  • Clementi Town Secondary
  • Dunman Secondary
  • Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' (Secondary)
  • Zhonghua Secondary
  • Singapore Chinese Girls'

Note: These awards are valid for five years

Five years on, the former Normal (Academic) stream student is bubbly, confident and has done well enough in the O levels to gain a place in Tampines Junior College's science stream with her O-level aggregate of 14 points.

Said the 18-year-old, whose dad is a senior engineering specialist and mum a corporate support officer: 'On the first day of school, our teachers said to us, 'You may take a little longer to understand things, but you are as good as any other student here'.

'I was encouraged that they had so much faith in us.'

St Margaret's Secondary in Farrer Road, which has a history of turning average scorers around, has been ranked in the top band for the Normal (Academic) stream for the first time.

About 98 per cent of its Normal (Academic) students last year qualified for polytechnics, while 67 per cent qualified for junior college or the centralised institute.

Yishun Town Secondary is the only other school in Band 1 - the top band - this year.

A total of 51 schools made it to the Normal (Academic) stream ranking list, which is based on the average O-level scores - English Language and four best subjects - for each school's students.

This year, the rankings highlighted schools all the way to Band 5, compared to last year's Band 4 - an indication that fewer schools did well enough to enter the upper bands.

But the Education Ministry said that while last year's cohort did not fare as well as the Class of 2005 - which has been described as an 'exceptional cohort' - it had done better than all other previous batches.

At St Margaret's, principal Marion Tan said the key to producing top students is in having dedicated teachers and treating every student equally.

Students from both the Express and Normal streams are given leadership opportunities and no distinction is made between the two streams.

Weeks before major examinations, teachers put up consultation timetables and sometimes stay till 8pm to help students with their work.

The 165-year-old school also makes it a point to have teachers move up with their Secondary 3 students through to Secondary 5.

Said history teacher Esther Tey: 'We know their strengths and weaknesses and instead of having to spend time getting to know them at the start of the year, we can get right down to business.'


4 steps to the top

FIVE schools have won the School Excellence Award this year, the top prize in a stepladder honour roll developed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2004.

Crescent Girls', Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Girls' High, Tanjong Katong Secondary and Victoria Junior College bagged the award this year, which recognises achievements in academic performance, the arts, sports and school management.

Thirteen schools clinched the School Distinction Award, the second highest honour.

In all, schools can aim for seven awards, across four levels. They must win awards at the first level to be eligible for those at the next one, and so on.

Here is a glimpse of the awards:

  • AT THE BEGINNING

Achievement Awards in value-added academic performance, physical health, sports, uniformed groups or the arts. Awards won at different national-level competitions such as the National Championships and the Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging are counted. Schools can also win a Development Award for National Education or character development.

  • SECOND STEP

A Sustained Achievement Award is given if a school consistently performs well.

For instance, to win this award for sports, it must be placed high in inter-school competitions for at least three consecutive years in three sports.

A total of 251 Sustained Achievement Awards have been given out this year to 167 schools.

Schools can get Best Practice Awards for effective management that results in a good learning environment. The awards are for organisational effectiveness, student all-round development and staff well-being, and teaching and learning.

This year, 12 schools won 18 of these awards.

There is also the Outstanding Development Award, which has two categories: National Education and character development. This year, four schools won the award for National Education and 13 schools clinched the award for character development, which were given out for the first time.

  • ALMOST THERE

The School Distinction Award is next. To win it, schools need Sustained Achievement Awards in two categories, and a Best Practice Award.

  • FINALLY, THE PEAK

The School Excellence Award is the highest honour awarded by MOE. To win it, secondary schools and junior colleges must win Sustained Achievement Awards in three areas - or two in the case of primary schools - and two Best Practice Awards, one of which has to be for student all-round development.

The schools also need to achieve good or value-added academic performance for at least three years, and also the Singapore Quality Class award from Spring Singapore.

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STORY INDEX
 
  Top spot for school that turns students around
   
 
  Old habits die hard - focus still on academic excellence
   
 
  Hwa Chong gets to the top
   
 
  Record 18 schools clinch top awards from MOE
   
 
  Guide to the tables
   
 
  MOE Honour Roll
   
 
  IP Schools Honour Roll
   
 
  4 steps to the top
   
 
  Hwa Chong wins top award, finally
   
 
  St Margaret's tops Normal (Academic) rankings
   
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