Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said effective teaching approaches and well-trained teachers played a part in the solid performance. "The focus of learning has also shifted from memorisation to understanding. Our exams have aligned in the same direction in testing comprehension and analysis, rather than just discrete factual knowledge," he said. "Students are well-prepared for such exams. The good performance reflects this." National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah, whose research focuses on the economics of education, said the high value that the Government puts on education and its efforts to improve the quality of schools are likely to translate into "even better performance by future cohorts". SHIFT IN FOCUS DR TIMOTHY CHAN, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, on how effective teaching approaches and well-trained teachers played a part in the solid performance. "This, coupled with the rising expectations and educational attainment of parents, means that there is scope for future batches to outperform the current one," he added. The Education Ministry and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board said in a joint press release yesterday that the results "are comparable" to those of 2015. A total of 30,292 students sat the O-level exams last year, compared with 29,723 students in 2015. Yesterday, schools across the island celebrated not only their top scorers in the O levels, but also those who had shown great improvement, excelled in their co- curricular activities, overcome odds in their lives or exhibited exemplary values such as leadership. At Serangoon Garden Secondary School, students who attained good results were among those recognised. Its principal, Mr Stephen Tay, said: "We hope that beyond academic grades, they will grow up with a sense of curiosity and a strong passion for learning. " A mix of emotions from relief to disappointment hung in the air as students collected their result slips. While some exchanged congratulatory hugs, others shed tears and had to be consoled. Hong Kah Secondary School principal Sung Mee Har said: "Grades do not define who they are. The experiences in school, which shape their character, and the skills they acquired, which prepare them for the future, are more important."