TL;DR – Are we getting fitter or is the system getting easier?
It has been almost 4 years since the introduction of the new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) format where both National Servicemen (NSmen) and full-time National Servicemen (NSF) are required to take only 3 stations and get an overall pass instead of the previous system where individuals are supposed to pass all 6 stations.
In 2016, an article by TODAY shared that ever since the new system was introduced, there was an improvement of 9% and 4% for individuals getting pass with incentive and getting gold/sliver in IPPT respectively.
Personally, I am one of those who benefited from the new system. I had not managed to clear my IPPT ever since I ORD-ed until the new format was introduced. My unit also saw an increase in the number of passes and in every category after the new system was introduced.
Was it really a case like what Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen mentioned in 2016 that “Compared to the previous format, the new scoring system encourages NSmen to go all out for each station, to compensate for lower scores in any one station. NSmen can also better focus on their training with fewer stations in the new format” , or is it simply a case where this new test format itself is easier than before? Considering that it now removes the pull-up and standing board stations that – let’s face it – are quite hard to pass.
How were these test stations formulated in the first place? Based on the role of a solider? Based on how we are required to function as a soldier if a war is to break out in Singapore? So what changed and why was there a need to update our IPPT? Is it a case that our new army no longer require to pull themselves up while hanging? Is it a case that we are no longer required to jump over a pit effectively?
Some will argue that push-ups trains our upper body strength which is similar to pull-ups. But if you are into sports, you might know that both exercises uses similar muscle groups but they are not the same i.e. they are effectively different. One is a push exercise while the other is a pull exercise.
So is it a case that we are doing better than before or is it a case where the test is getting easier?
I am not complaining since I benefited from this new system but food for thought, is it the right mindset to instill into Singaporeans that we can achieve better if we simply lower the bar?
What do I propose then?
So here’s my two cents.
Truth is, not every soldier is made the same and neither are we needed for the same purpose. Some soldiers need speed while some might require more strength and endurance in order to perform their task.
Regardless of what is your combat vocation, running is probably a basic requirement thus there shouldn’t be any changes made to the 2.4km run component. But I would suggest that instead of just having five stations like before or two stations like now, soldiers will be given the flexibility to select 4 out of 7 stations to what they deem fits them the most. They will then be required to only pass these 4 selected stations to obtain an overall pass.
If you ask me, this system gives NSmen the flexibility of choice in terms of what is better for them and at the same time doesn’t lose the meaning of what constitutes as a test.
A test itself is made to measure the proficiency of each individual and not made just for the sake of making people feel good about themselves.
And of course by themselves, I mean myself included.