Normal Academic (NA) streaming was introduced in early 1990s with the purpose of allowing students with different abilities and learning styles to develop and sustain an interest in their studies. NA policy allows outstanding NA students to be transferred to the Express stream at lower secondary (Secondary 1 and 2).

Transfer Promotion – From NA To Express

At Secondary 1 and 2, NA students who perform well academically are allowed “transfer-promotion” into the next level of the Express stream. In other words, outstanding secondary 1 NA students can be promoted to secondary 2 Express. Similarly outstanding secondary 2 NA students can be promoted to secondary 3 Express. Among past transfer promoted NA students, some are known to make it to prestigious Law Schools overseas.

Transfer-promotion rates at secondary 1 and 2 are the most important indicators on whether a school is running a good NA program in terms of management of teaching resources. High transfer-promotion rate means that the NA students are in good care by passionate educators. However, Over the past 20 years, very few schools are providing NA students with the best help to facilitate transfer-promotion. Almost all schools are known to attain transfer-promotion rate of less than 5%.

Transfer Demotion – From Express To NA

Instead, most schools are taking advantage of the NA system to transfer-demote non-performing students from Express to NA stream. In this process, secondary 1 Express students are transfer-demoted to secondary 2 NA. Similar transfer-demotion can also be applied to weak students at Secondary 2 and 3.

In most schools, transfer-demotion consistently outnumbers transfer-promotion. School principals and teachers who are staunch believers of “Every School A Good School” will want parents to believe that there is no bad teacher but only slow learning student. Schools will always maintain that their teaching resources are adequate and their teachers are good. Staying in NA and thereafter entering ITE is therefore “best option for the student in long-term”.

Disadvantage Of Transfer Demotion

While students in Express stream always enjoy more subject choices and better academic support, NA students can only choose between 2 NA classes with preconfigured subject combinations. At upper secondary, NA students can only choose between “single math” or “double maths” class. Transfer-demotion is therefor double penalties for Express students: Not only do they require 1 extra year in their secondary study, they also have to change subject combination due to limited subject offering in NA stream.

NA students who do not perform well in one or more subjects will always be asked to drop their weakest subject. This option is high risk as the student would be left with barely enough subjects to move on through secondary 4 and 5.

Transfer Demotion Warning Sign

Transfer-demotion is so common that weaker students are always forewarned in midyear to prepare for transfer-demotion at year end. This self-fulfilling-prophecy method is effective to prepare student psychologically for the eventual transfer. Schools do not see it necessary to provide any other assistance to weaker students. Transfer-demotion is the one-and-only-one, one-size-fit-all solution to weaker students.

With the NA system running for more than 20 years now, we can safely assume that it is not realistic to hope for every NA school a good school. Parents should by all means keep their child in Express stream, not only in Secondary 1 but throughout their secondary education.

Preventing transfer-demotion

It is always too late for parents to make an appeal after transfer-demotion. Parents should therefore act quickly once the school sounds the warning in midyear. Schools will not provide extra help to students during the June holiday. Parents are expected to engage external tutors for intensive lessons during holiday.

As the school will repeatedly sound the warning to weak students, parents must keep a look up for signs of emotional distress in their child. In some extreme cases where the child manifest symptom of harassment distress, parent should consult doctor immediately and request for medical documents. Schools always take these documents seriously and will take immediate action to provide special care for the student.