Perspectives on Streaming, EM3 Pupils and Literacy: Views of Participants

Ng Siew Peng, Irene

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


Research on the practice of streaming in Singapore has been predominantly concerned with pupils, that is, those who are at the receiving end of the education system. Teachers' perceptions and discourse about streaming have been largely unexplored and a comparison of their views against the views of the pupils' is noticeably absent. This case study thus attempts to fill these gaps by investigating perceptions of both the teachers and EM3 pupils in a Singapore primary school with respect to streaming and the effects streaming has on the EM3 pupils, the construct of the EM3 pupil and his/her attributes and the contributing factors to EM3 children's literacy development. Furthermore, it also seeks to find out teachers' choice of pedagogy in the EM3 classroom.

To aid credibility and validity, multiple methods were employed: a questionnaire survey for teachers and pupils, interviews with five EM3 teachers and four focus group discussions with a total of twenty pupils. The purpose of the interviews and discussions was to explore the survey's findings in greater detail.

The findings revealed that while teachers feel that streaming is beneficial to pupils, the pupils themselves dislike being streamed because of labelling and stigmatisation that comes from family, friends and society at large. The way society views the EM3 pupils appears to affect them and their self-conception becomes a primary reflection of the attributes as they are mirrored in society. The investigation also saw how teachers' accounts often locate literacy problems within the pupil's family which systematically triggers off a causal chain that affects their views on the contributing factors to literacy development and ultimately their choice of pedagogy in the classroom. For instance, most teachers see EM3 pupils as poor, coming from dysfunctional homes or having parents who do not care enough. Because of these factors, the pupils are then seen not to be coping well in school, which, in turn leads the teachers to choose the skills-and-drill method in the teaching of literacy.