Changing Contexts, Changing Curriculum

In curriculum reform and innovation, context matters. As Fullan asserts, ‘organisations transform when they can establish mechanisms for learning in the dailiness of organisational life’ (Fullan, 2007). So, what is the RGS context? How has it influenced the implementation of a concept-based curriculum? What are the events and decisions that contribute to its development? What is the role played by the leadership in this journey?

RGS: Background

Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) had its origins as a one-room department in Raffles Institution in 1844. RGS was officially established in 1879 with the appointment of its first Headmistress. As a school for high-ability females, it declares sterling achievements in both the academic and non-academic domains; namely, sports and performing arts. The RGS students, who constitute the top 3-5 % of the national cohort, gain admission based on their Primary School Leaving Examination which they sit for at the end of Primary 6 or through Direct School Admission (DSA).[1] Students admitted via DSA possess exceptional talent in either specific academic domains, sports or the aesthetics. About 30 % of the students are from the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education Programme (GEP), which is offered to the top 1 % of the cohort based on their verbal-linguistic and mathematical aptitude.

In 1993, RGS joined a group of schools selected by the Ministry of Education to be on the Independent School scheme. These schools are given autonomy in areas like curriculum, staff recruitment and student admission. In 2004, RGS embarked on the Raffles Programme (RP), a 6-year programme that leads to the ‘A’ level examinations at Raffles Institution.

In these developments, the enduring focus is on creating a learning environment that optimises the potential of the highly able students through a robust curriculum that stretches thinking and plugs the students into the real world. This focus is encapsulated in the school’s mission: nurturing the high-ability girl to be a leader who will realise her talents in service to nation and community.

It is within this context that curriculum decisions and planning operate.

  • [1] The DSA-Secondary Exercise allows secondary schools to select Primary 6 students for admission to secondary one, based on their achievements and talents. They, therefore, gain admissioneven before the Primary School Leaving Examination results are released.
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