Stricter rules on school transfers

Appeal process helps overcome system's limitations

I was dismayed to read that the Ministry of Education has tightened the appeal procedure for secondary schools and junior colleges ("Sec 1 postings: Harder to switch schools"; Dec 29, 2015, and "Stricter rules on JC transfers"; last Friday).

While meritocracy and streamlining the appeal process are important, strictly enforcing the cut-off point appears excessive and counterproductive.

Often, many students marginally miss out on admission to their preferred school due to a bad day or cohort competition.

For these borderline cases, the appeal process is another chance for them to convince their preferred school that they have sufficient credentials and qualities to be a part of the school community.

It would be a pity if the student cannot go to a school that may be a better fit for him, over just a few points.

Moreover, appeal students often add diversity to schools.

Although the Direct School Admissions (DSA) scheme provides an alternative avenue for students with special abilities to enter schools, the actual number of such students admitted is extremely small.

In fact, the DSA generally caters to students who excel in recognised co-curricular activities, such as sports.

There are very few DSA programmes for students with other capabilities, such as being prodigious in specific subjects, such as creative writing or maths.

Appeals have helped many ofsuch students.

Some students may also lose out on account of the subjects they offer at the O levels.

For instance, the cut-off for some top post-secondary schools can be as low as two points.

It is impossible for students who do not offer Higher Mother Tongue or a third language to attain such a grade, as they would not have access to the bonus points that come with these subjects.

They would, thus, be unable to enter the school, even though they have the best raw score of six points. Appeals would allow institutions to admit them.

Schools should have some discretion in admissions, to correct the limitations of the national admissions system.

Ng Qi Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Appeal process helps overcome system's limitations'. Print Edition | Subscribe