Give DSA students more time for holistic education

For many secondary schools, a student is granted direct school admission (DSA) based on a school's sporting or artistic needs.

Thus, if a school wants to excel in a sport, it may look for applicants who are talented in that sport and directly admit them before they have taken their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

There is nothing wrong with that.

However, every secondary school student is assessed at the same time during the O levels, irrespective of how that student gained admission into the secondary school.

For DSA students, in order to excel in their ability that initially allowed them to be directly admitted, they have to train several hours a day, just to ensure they can live up to the standards expected of them and justify their DSA.

This acts as a natural handicap when pitted against their more academically inclined classmates during exams.

However, admission to higher education is based on academic scores and is blind to whether a student is an athlete or a bookworm.

Isn't there something intrinsically wrong with this?

Surely, it must be recognised that for DSA students, in order to develop what the school initially recognised as the student's range of strengths, abilities and achievements, the same student needs more time to do all that, as well as study?

Wouldn't it make more sense for a student who applies and is admitted to the DSA scheme to complete his O levels only after six years rather than four, with the subjects spread out over that period?

Wouldn't that give the student time to develop his talent as well as lessen his academic burden, allowing him a more holistic education?

Also, wouldn't that filter out any non-genuine applicants who intend to apply for the DSA simply to avoid the PSLE but who have no intention of committing to the DSA programme?

Boon Chin Aun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Give DSA students more time for holistic education'. Print Edition | Subscribe