Integrated Programme (IP) vs ‘O’ level: What Parents Need To Know

Posted by Shafina Jaafar on November 04, 2016

The jump from primary to secondary school is a major transition for your Primary 6 child. A whole new learning adventure awaits your child – a new school, a new group of friends and more as he or she steps into secondary school in just a few months' time.

Before your child enters secondary school, there is also one more important choice to make — should I enrol my child in the Integrated Programme (IP)? It is crucial for you as a parent, together with your child, to fully understand the demands and expectations of the IP before making the decision.

To help you, here are the some important to questions to ask before making that important decision with your child.

What is the Integrated Programme (IP)?

The Integrated Programme (IP) is a 6-year programme targeted at the top 10% of PSLE students. Students on this programme bypass the ‘O’ levels for a direct route towards the ‘A’ levels or International Baccalaureate (IB), followed by university.

More than just a prestigious track offered by top schools in Singapore, the IP was first introduced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to provide a seamless secondary and junior college education. This programme allows students to enjoy the space and capacity to develop intellectual curiosity and other talents.

It was first offered in 2004 by 8 schools, including Raffles Institution (RI), Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Girls' School. Today, 14 years later, the programme is now offered in 18 schools in Singapore.

For the full list of IP schools visit: MOE Integrated Programme (IP) Schools.

How does the IP benefit my child?

The biggest ‘perk’ of the IP is the absence of ‘O’ levels. Schools offering IP will optimise the time freed up from preparing for the ‘O’ levels to stretch your child and provide greater breadth in the academic and non-academic curriculum.

Academically, this fast track programme keeps your child ahead of his or her peers with the inclusion of higher-level topics. In other words, if your child is in Secondary 1, his or her curriculum will also include Secondary 2 topics that will push him or her in higher-order thinking and analytical skills.  

With ‘O’ levels taken out of the equation, your child now has more time for enrichment programmes. These programmes can include elective studies such as psychology, public speaking, leadership, problem solving and more to help your child gain and develop life skills beyond the classroom.  

If you suddenly find your child being more involved in school events, do not be surprised! IP students in school are given more opportunities to plan events for the school and the communities that inculcate values such as responsibility and empathy. For your sporty child, he or she will be happy to know that the IP track also allows for more time to be spent on participating in school competitions and growing their passion.

Is my child suitable for the IP?

While the IP promises growth for your child beyond the academic sense, it is more important for you to understand that the IP may not be suitable for every child.

In 2016, The Straits Times reported that out of 4,000 primary school leavers entering the IP in 2016, around 6%, or 240 students, can be expected to drop out before they complete it. (Read: About 6% of students likely to not finish IP)

Don’t be alarmed just yet.

Whether or not your child can manage and excel in the IP depends heavily on his or her ability to adapt to the curriculum style. Assessing whether your child will take to this programme well begins with knowing your child’s learning habits.

Based on the report, students who did not do well in the IP track highlighted that the programme is not suited to their strengths and learning styles.

“I didn't do so well in the A levels, but I am still glad I was in the IP. I felt that I gained in other ways. I am doing well in my degree course, partly because the IP taught me research and analytical skills. I realise [too] that the IP suits students who have a lot of discipline." — A 22-year-old, who dropped out of the IP and now studies at the private Singapore Institute of Management

While the flexible curriculum allows for teachers to expose your child to a more advanced curriculum and develop non-academic skills and interest, it also places a greater need for him or her to be disciplined and keep track of his or her own progress in school. The fluid schedule of work means that your child will need to exercise a higher degree of independence in managing his or her learning journey. 

It is good to note that most schools still conduct school-based assessments to measure students’ progress. Some schools also offer the four-year 'O' level track and let students transfer from one to the other.

How can The Learning Lab help my child?

We have lessons suitable for both 'O' Level and IP students. The IP curriculum in TLL has been carefully designed by our curriculum specialists to support your child’s journey in the IP track. Across English, Math and Science, our curriculum is pitched on a higher level to stretch our students further. Constant assessment and regular practices are put in place to help your child keep track of his or her progress.

For English

Our curriculum builds critical thinking and presentation skills that IP students will need to excel in school. In class, your child gets to actively discuss a wide range of topics, including social issues and current affairs. This encourages students to develop their own opinions and build on content knowledge for their essays and application questions.

Our English IP classes gives your child a headstart in school by placing more emphasis on developing skills for ‘A’ level components such as Argumentative Essay and Application Questions, as early as Year 1.

For Math

In our Math IP classes, your child will be taught topics beyond the 'O' level syllabus to enrich their learning. For example, ‘A’ level topics such as Permutation & Combination and Number Bases are introduced as early as Secondary 3.

Our Math tutorials focus on exam excellence. They cover a comprehensive range of questions, from foundational ones to challenging questions commonly found in the various IP schools’ papers. Teachers will select tutorials based on the academic needs of your child – strong students will be stretched further with challenging questions upon completing the foundational questions.

Quizzes and mock papers are also incorporated into our curriculum to simulate an examination environment and help your child develop the needed examination skills.

For Science

At TLL, school-specific classes are available. This is to better cater to the academic needs of students in these schools who are learning additional modules covered such as Forensic Science for Raffles Girls School and Hydroponics for Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

IP students from other schools will be grouped into our SILO classes according to the 3 Science subjects – Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In the SILO classes, your child will begin 8 weeks of lesson in one subject and rotate into another subject after 8 weeks. After 3 rotations, there will be revision for all subjects in preparation for examinations. 

While you await with bated breath for your child’s posting results, take some time to find out more about our programmes here.

Registration For Our 2019 Classes Is ongoing

We'd love to welcome your child to our classes.

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The Learning Lab is now at 8 locations. Find a location that suits your needs.

If you have any questions about our programmes, please email us at or call us at 6733 8711 and we will be happy to assist you.

Topics: integrated programme, secondary, secondary school