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More secondary school places secured via DSA this year; no more application fees from 2019

SINGAPORE — More students’ secured places in secondary schools through the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise this year, after the Ministry of Education (MOE) allowed all schools to increase intake through the scheme.

SINGAPORE — More students secured places in secondary schools through the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise this year, after the Ministry of Education (MOE) allowed all schools to increase intake through the scheme.

This year, 3,000 students secured places, up from 2,500 last year, revealed Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah on Thursday (Nov 8).

To remove financial barriers and encourage students — regardless of background — to apply for the DSA, the ministry announced that it will make applications free of charge from next year.

Applications will also be submitted through a centralised online portal.

Currently, some schools with a high volume of applicants charge a fee ranging from S$20 to S$50 per application. In response to queries, the MOE said that the fees were meant to recover costs from DSA administration and selection, including the conducting and marking of general ability tests.

“Most of these schools waived the fees for students who had financial difficulties,” added the ministry.  

INCREASE IN INTAKE NOT A SURPRISE

The increase in intake under the DSA this year came as no surprise.

At the MOE’s Committee of Supply debate last year, then-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 this year.

This was an increase from the 5 per cent cap for schools with distinctive programmes, and 10 per cent cap for autonomous schools. Independent schools already had a 20 per cent limit.

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

Aside from the increased intake, schools also discontinued the general ability test and high ability selection test this year. Previously, those tests were meant for students who applied for academic programmes under the DSA.

Such academic abilities would have already been demonstrated through the Primary School Leaving Examination, said the MOE.

Instead, schools now identify students’ talent in specific academic areas through interviews and tests. Students applying for a Creative Writing programme, for instance, will be evaluated through a creative writing task, said the ministry.

Students will also be evaluated in various ways when it comes to non-academic programmes such as sports, performing and visual arts as well as leadership. For instance, in sports, schools will look at students’ natural abilities and potential such as in agility and coordination.

St Joseph’s Institution principal Adrian Danker told TODAY that his school has done away with specific academic programmes. That is because the original intention of the DSA is to assess students’ other abilities, he said.

His school offers programmes in innovation, leadership and sports, among others.

For its innovation programme, for instance, applicants are presented with a group-based task to showcase their creativity and also how they work as a team. “The move to focus on non-academic programmes is also in line with our mission, which is to never lose sight of the last, the lost and the least,” said Dr Danker.

NO MORE APPLICATION FEES

On making applications for the DSA free of charge, the MOE said it is aimed at removing “financial barriers for any student with talent and potential, and to encourage students, regardless of background, to apply for DSA”.

Although schools will have to bear the extra costs, they have agreed that this “is the right thing to do”, said the ministry.

All applications will be made through a centralised online portal that can be found on the MOE’s website. Students need to log in with at least one of their parents’ SingPass accounts.

Those with difficulty accessing can approach the respective schools for assistance.

There will be a common application timeline under the new application format.

Applicants will only fill in one online form to apply to multiple schools, instead of submitting applications to individual schools with different application processes.

The application form has also been simplified. For example, school information such as the student’s Primary 5 and Primary 6 academic results, co-curricular activities, school-based achievements and awards will be automatically and electronically shared with the schools that the student applies to.

They will not need to provide multiple certificates, transcripts or testimonials.

Under the new application process, a student can choose up to three schools and three talent areas in his DSA application. Those with multiple talents have up to two choices to apply for two different talent areas with the same school.

For instance, they can apply for choir and string orchestra in one school, and also choir in a different school. The MOE said that students and parents can check the ministry’s DSA webpage for more information around April next year.

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DSA education PSLE admission

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