Increasingly, schools and parents are recognising the need for more diverse study options. While STEM subjects are still highly popular, over the years there has been an increase in choices and pathways for students who have varied interests and talents.
Is your child interested to pursue music or art, and wish to take it as an examinable subject in school? Or perhaps, would they like to push their abilities in computing or electronics?
During secondary school selection, taking all these into account is crucial. Not all schools offer the same subjects, especially for niche ones like we mentioned.
So, take a look below to find out what some of these special programmes are, as well as some schools that offer it!
1. Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP)
BSP’s focus is on promoting biculturalism and bilingualism in English and Chinese, with a key focus on China’s history, culture, and current affairs, and their relation to the activities and culture of the West. Students are expected to be effectively bilingual, with strong communicative skills in both English and Chinese.
While BSP may sound similar to the concept of SAP schools, not all SAP schools offer BSP, and some schools offering BSP are not SAP schools. However, students must possess stellar academic grades and qualify for Higher Chinese to be eligible for the programme. BSP is not an examinable subject, although students will need to attend extra classes for BSP apart from English and Chinese lessons.
To promote bilingualism and biculturalism, students may take part in exchange and immersion programmes with overseas schools, symposiums and camps relating to their studies. Top-performing students may also apply for the BSP scholarship in Sec 3, and take up China studies in JC as an A Level subject.
Schools offering the programme: Catholic High School, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School, Dunman High School, Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Girls’ High School, River Valley High School, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School
Not to be confused with: Special Assistance Plan (SAP describes schools with a special focus on Chinese heritage, bilingualism, and biculturalism. While there are trends of SAP schools offering more cultural activities like Chinese calligraphy and overseas exchange programmes, SAP is not a study programme in the sense that you cannot take it as a subject. Rather, these activities and initiatives are school-wide.)
2. Art Elective Programme (AEP)
AEP are for students with a keen interest in art, and wish to further their skills in it. Do note that studying art is not just about learning skills like drawing, painting, and sculpting – students will also need to study art history and theories, so being fascinated by the artists and stories behind their art is also an important criteria to have.
Typically, you have to register your interest after you have successfully matriculated into a school offering AEP. Then, the school will ask for a portfolio submission and entrance test/interview to decide whether or not to admit the student into this programme.
Depending on the school, AEP students will take Higher Art in place of some other classes, such as Design & Technology or Food & Consumer Education. Students who study AEP will take Higher Art as an O Level subject in Sec 4. There is also the possibility of continuing AEP in JC to take it as an A Level subject.
Schools offering the programme: Bukit Panjang Government High School, CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh), Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Girls’ High School, National Junior College, Victoria School, Zhonghua Secondary School
Not to be confused with: Enhanced Art Programme (a similar but 2-year programme for upper sec students) – offered by CHIJ Katong Convent, Meridian Secondary School, Nan Chiau High School, Naval Base Secondary School, New Town Secondary School, Ngee Ann Secondary School, Orchid Park Secondary School, St. Andrew’s Secondary School. Application is open to Sec 2 students.
3. Music Elective Programme (MEP)
MEP is for students who already have strong musical sense and abilities, and are interested to pursue more in-depth studies in it. Besides Western music history (what we commonly know as “classical music”), students will also get to learn about music of different styles and cultures, as well as hone their performance and composition skills.
Like with AEP, MEP students will take Higher Music classes in place of other subjects like Design & Technology or Food & Consumer Education. The 4-year programme will lead to the Higher Music O Level exams, with the option to continue it in JC.
To get into MEP, students will need to register at the start of Sec 1. Thereafter, the school will ask the students to attend an aural and listening test, performance audition, and interview. Students who compose may also submit recordings and scores of their original works.
Schools offering the programme: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School (Secondary Section), Catholic High School (Secondary Section), Crescent Girls’ School, Dunman High School, Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Raffles Institution, Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, Temasek Junior College
Not to be confused with: Enhanced Music Programme (a similar but 2-year programme for upper sec students) – offered by Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School, Chung Cheng High School (Main), St Margaret’s Secondary School, Yuhua Secondary School. Application is open to Sec 2 students.
4. Applied subjects
Some secondary schools in Singapore offer Applied Subjects, which is an initiative towards offering less-traditional subjects in school to broaden students’ interests. These are more ‘hands-on’ subjects rather that highly textbook-focused ones.
For example, Jurongville Secondary School offers Fundamentals of Electronics, in which students will take Electronics as an O Level subject. In the project-work heavy course, students will learn about how electronics function in digital circuits in televisions and computers, and have to work on their own electronics project.
Some other subjects currently being offered at various schools include Exercise and Sports Science, Drama, and Computing.
Some of these programmes have been crafted in partnership with polytechnics to ensure a high quality of education and relevance of content.
Schools offering the programme: You can find a list of applied subjects and schools offering each programme at MOE’s website here.
Students today are privileged to have so many choices of study programmes and subjects, you might even say they are spoilt for choice! We’ve not even covered all the special programmes that our schools have to offer – there’s still the Regional Studies Programme, Third Languages, and many more. You may head on to MOE’s official website to explore more of these opportunities.
Remember to also consider the workload of these niche programmes, as some of them may require more commitment to project work and coursework. Finally, for examinable subjects, you’ll want to find out how it works into your subject combination at the O Levels.