No need to tinker with direct admission scheme

A secondary school student (left) handing out invitations at the national inter-primary school track and field championships to scout for student-athletes to join the school through the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme.
A secondary school student (left) handing out invitations at the national inter-primary school track and field championships to scout for student-athletes to join the school through the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme. PHOTO: ST FILE

Not all participating secondary schools which offer post-Primary 6 pupils a place through the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise are on the O-level track.

In fact, a few on the list are Integrated Programme (IP) schools that allow students to bypass the O levels altogether.

Coincidentally, the idea behind the IP is precisely what Mr Boon Chin Aun is advocating - giving students more time and flexibility to pursue a more broad-based education, since they do not have to sit the O levels at the end of four years ("Give DSA students more time for holistic education"; last Saturday).

Instead, these students proceed to take their A levels or the International Baccalaureate at the end of six years.

I disagree with Mr Boon's proposal for students admitted through the DSA scheme to complete their O levels in six years rather than four.

He contends that in order for these students to develop their full potential, especially in sports or the performing arts, they need more time to train or hone their abilities while juggling their studies.

Few, if any, students would want to take an additional two years to complete their O levels.

Our students are a pragmatic lot who would not deign to straggle so far behind their peers.

Most are resilient and adroit enough in balancing their co-curricular commitments with their studies.

At the operational level, the negligible numbers admitted through the DSA exercise may also not justify the schools' efforts in specially tailoring a six-year O-level programme for them.

Lastly, Mr Boon is mistaken in thinking the DSA allows applicants to avoid the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

While they can be offered a place before the release of their PSLE results, it is contingent on the proviso that they achieve PSLE scores that would qualify them for admission to a course offered by their opted DSA school.

There is no need to tinker with the present system.

Let's not lose sight of the DSA scheme's fundamental objective, which is to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate a more diverse range of achievements and talents, other than solely academic performance, in seeking admission to a secondary school.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'No need to tinker with direct admission scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe