Integrated Programme (IP) is an initiative by Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2004 to provide high-performing PSLE graduates with a stretched curriculum in Secondary School, and then promoting them directly to a partner Junior College for A’ Levels examinations without having to go through O’ Levels. If your child is offered the IP route, it means that his PSLE results is in the top 10 percent in Singapore. Your child can also use a talent to get into an IP school using the Direct School Admission Scheme (DSA). If your child qualifies for IP, congratulations! If you are not sure of whether to propel your child towards the IP route or just let him stay mainstream, we list for you some characteristics of IP so that you can make a more informed decision.
No O’ Levels Exams
One main characteristics of IP is the direct track to a partner Junior College without having to go through the O’ Levels exams. For those who have gone through O’ Levels papers, we understand the benefits it brings to us. Studying for the O’ Levels instill a certain discipline in all of us. Not only that, we are also much clearer of where our strengths and weaknesses lie, and whether we are suited for a similar but more difficult A’ Levels exams. Some Secondary school students, having gone through the O’ Levels crunch, gain better self-awareness and head on to Polytechnic education where they can truly excel with their strengths. Without the O’ Levels exams, students who are struggling in IP are deprived the option of testing their academic ability (again after the PSLE, and before the A’ Levels), to make a better decision of whether to proceed to Junior College or go to Polytechnic.
Recent years, there have been some adjustments to the Integrated Programme. One such adjustment is the availability of a dual track for students who can’t keep up with the programme. These students who are lagging behind academically will be advised to move to an O’ Levels class in the school so that he may get off the IP track, get his O’ Levels certification and then decide whether he wants to progress to Polytechnic education or to move back to the IP track for A’ Levels examinations. These students are usually identified by the end of Secondary One, and decisions to switch track will usually be made by the end of Secondary Two. They will have at least one and a half year more to focus on preparations for their O’ Levels. It is advisable for parents to confirm if the school your child is going to offers such a dual track.
However, even with the availability of the dual track system, IP students who had to move to O’ Levels track can’t help but feel a sense of failure when they end up in the O’ Levels class. This fall from grace affects them deeply, and most get so affected they can no longer face the O’ Levels and future decisions the way any healthy and confident mainstream student can. Therefore, if you have decided to have your child in IP, it is best to give him your utmost support so that he does not fall back into the O’ Levels track. In some IP schools, there are incidents of students in the O’ Levels track progressing to IP class when they perform well by the end of Secondary Two! Therefore, one option for your child may be to let him get into an IP school O’ Levels track and allow him to progress to IP class when he shows good results.
Availability of IB Exams
Another adjustment made in recent years would be the offering of the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams within the IP track. So, instead of going for A’ Levels, students will sit for the IB exams instead. You may find out more about the schools offering IB exams in MOE’s website.
If you would like your child to go for IB Exams (recognized by prestigious overseas Universities like Oxford and Cambridge), it is better to have your child on the IP track. It makes sense because the way the IP curriculum is crafted is very suitable for developing students with the IB Learner Profile. So far, Singapore schools offering the IB Exams have also achieved a good track record of producing great results.
The IP Curriculum
The IP curriculum is rigorous. It aims to develop well-rounded students who grow up to be responsible citizens if not potential world leaders, more than just certificate holders. It demands a lot out of students. Different schools offer different curriculum however, so you need to check the curriculum that your school of interest is providing. Your child gets exposed to Pyschology, Financial Literacy, Economics, Governance, Research and all kinds of topics that you don’t even know exist! Your child will also have the chance to take on more leadership functions (planning and executing roles) in school activities. Sounds good? This, however, is highly demanding on your child’s time and energy. Before allowing your child to plunge into this adventure, think about whether such an education route is suitable for him. Will your child embrace such a curriculum? Will he feel drained? Does he have enough self-discipline and focus to manage his academic progress along with all the interesting activities he can partake in? Can he learn and apply new knowledge fast enough?
Not every child who qualifies for IP must rush to get into IP. Not every child who doesn’t qualify for IP will never have a chance to get into IP. This is true for many dual-track IP schools. If you have not yet decided, you may enroll your child in an IP school first and decide later. The IP education has its benefits and can truly prepare our children to be better thinkers and game-changers of the future. Is this what you and your child want? If so, embrace the IP and enjoy the journey. If your child is unsure or feels unprepared, it is better to stick to the mainstream route first. This, at least, gives your child an option of going into Polytechnic education without feeling the shame.