The Ministry of Education (MOE) will review the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme to realign it with its original intent to recognise achievements and talents in specific areas instead of general academic ability.
Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng (Schools) mentioned this in his ministry’s plans on Friday during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on April 8.
While many students have benefited from DSA, “there is some unevenness in how different schools select their DSA students”, he added.
Recently, The Straits Times’ senior education correspondent Sandra Davie called for the DSA Academic category to be scrapped.
To address this, MOE intends to expand the DSA opportunities in more secondary schools for students with specific strengths, and it will also “sharpen the focus of the DSA” to better recognise talents and achievements in specific domains rather than general academic ability that can be demonstrated through the PSLE.
Introduced in 2004, DSA was intended to promote holistic education by providing opportunities for students to be recognised for a more diverse range of achievements and talents, such as in sports and arts, when seeking admission to secondary schools.
The DSA has been criticised for turning into a channel for students to secure places in the most sought-after Integrated Programme schools whose students bypass the O levels.
Some parents also send their children for DSA preparation classes and enrichment programmes to boost their chances of doing well in interviews and auditions.
Others have also criticised the DSA scheme for benefitting children from wealthier backgrounds who can afford expensive coaching to prep them.
“Today, I fear we are over-crowding our young ones with a narrow focus on academics. While we have their interests at heart, too much of one thing impedes rather than supports growth,” said Acting Minister Ng.
The changes to come, including revamping the Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system, will help to reduce emphasis on exam results, but there is no silver bullet to the issues of stress and competition.
“While MOE can change policies and structures, ultimately, this is a personal journey for every child, parent and family.”
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
(Photos: File photo/SPH)