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Direct School Admission exercise cap raised to 20% for all schools: MOE

SINGAPORE — To prevent parents and students from gaming the system and to bring the 13-year-old Direct Schools Admission Exercise (DSA) back to its original objective of recognising and admitting students based on talents in areas such as sports and arts, the DSA will be tweaked from next year.

SINGAPORE — To prevent parents and students from gaming the system and to bring the 13-year-old Direct Schools Admission Exercise (DSA) back to its original objective of recognising and admitting students based on talents in areas such as sports and arts, the DSA will be tweaked from next year.

Announcing the results of the year-long review of the DSA at the Education Ministry’s (MOE) Committee of Supply debate on Tuesday (March 7), Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said all secondary schools will be allowed to admit up to 20 per cent of their Secondary One intake for the four-year O-Level track under DSA from 2018.

This is an increase from the existing 5 percent cap for schools with distinctive programmes, and 10 per cent cap for autonomous schools. Independent schools will not see an increase as they already have a 20 per cent limit.

Schools will also have to do away with general academic ability tests, which “inadvertently put undue focus on general academic abilities”, as part of their selection process, Mr Ng added.

They can, however, continue to screen and select students based on interviews, trials, auditions and subject tests. They can also consider the applicant’s overall portfolio and achievements.

This change in intake, however, will not apply to schools offering the six-year Integrated Programme (IP) leading to the International Baccalaureate certificate. IP schools and specialised independent schools like NUS High School for Maths and Science and the School of the Arts (SOTA) will continue to have full discretion in admission.

Last year, half of the 2,800 students who secured a place  through the DSA last year were admitted to the IP, a trend that Mr Ng said was unsurprising. MOE statistics show that IP schools generally admitted an annual average of 35 per cent of their Secondary One IP intake from 2014 to 2016 via the DSA.

Repeatedly emphasising that the DSA was conceived to recognise students based on a more diverse range of talents and achievements, beyond what is measured by the Primary School Leaving Examinations, Mr Ng said: “With this expansion, students can better access schools with suitable programmes via DSA, to nurture their talents and interests. DSA should not be seen as an entry ticket to popular schools.”

Application process under the DSA will also be streamlined from 2019. Students can submit their DSA applications through a centralised online application portal, using a common application form, instead of submitting applications to individual schools with different application processes.

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