It’s no secret that economically developed Asian countries are pretty keen on school exams. From Hong Kong and Singapore to South Korea and Japan, the pressure on students to succeed academically is buttressed by a strict regime of formal exams, the results of which play a large part in determining their futures. Singapore, however, recently announced that it is getting rid of all exams for primary 1 and 2 students and mid-term exams for primary 3 and 5 students, and in the third year of secondary school. Announcing the changes, the education minister, Ong Ye Kung, identified four trade-offs in any educational system: between hard work and student enjoyment; between useful academic differentiation and an overcompetitive culture; between customisation to cater for a range of abilities and stigmatisation of the less academically able; and between skills and paper qualifications.
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