The Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme has come under the spotlight recently.
On Jan 18, 2016, a post went viral on Raffles Institution Sec 4 students doing so badly in the O levels that only one out of the class of 10 qualified for junior college. Many were school athletes.
And at least one DSA prep school has reported more interest from parents, who are gunning for this route now that MOE has clamped down on secondary school appeals.
The scheme allows kids who are talented in sports, the arts, or who have very good grades, to get into the secondary school of their choice as long as they meet the Express stream cut-off of 200. In this way, they bypass the usual Secondary 1 posting process and don’t need to meet the minimum cut-off T-score in the Primary School Leaving Examination.
Now, two mothers – a Member of Parliament (MP) and a respected education blogger – have highlighted the flaws of the system:
In a Parliament speech on Jan 27, the MP for Jalan Besar GRC talked about three negative trends in Singapore’s education. According to a report in The Straits Times, one of them is the “parentocracy” – where children gain success due to their parents’ wealth and social capital and not their own means.
This will “further rear its ugly head” as the stakes of academic scores become higher. She added that it is an “open secret” that DSA scheme benefits children from wealthier homes, because their parents have the means to nurture them in specific areas from a young age.
An entrepreneur who has been featured in Young Parents’ print magazine, Monica has two children with differing academic abilities – her daughter was in the gifted programme in primary school and went to an Integrated Programme (IP) secondary school, while her son is in a neighbourhood secondary school.
Her thoughtful blog chronicles their academic journeys, and her latest post on the DSA has gone viral. Titled “When students in top schools don’t make the grade”, she offers a brutally frank perspective of the pressure that students in IP schools face.
“Being in a branded school doesn’t automatically mean you get a leg up in grades. In fact, it’s often the opposite. Based on my own experience with my two kids, branded schools actually teach less and test more,” she writes.
In another part of her post, she says: “At the sec 4 graduation ceremony, some students went up on stage to receive a fake scroll, bitterly knowing there was a chance they might not graduate. It’s sobering and horrible and nobody talks about it.”
So if you’re planning to use the DSA route to get into a top school, do your homework very carefully – and understand your child’s learning style and abilities.
Remember, you can’t transfer out of a DSA school – the commitment is for four or six years, depending on whether your child is on the O-level track or the IP track.
(Photo: Ng Sor Luan/SPH)