Direct School Admission scheme

Disallow applications with academic subjects

I applauded the Ministry of Education's decision to stop looking at general academic ability in the Direct School Admission (DSA) criteria (Education focus shifts to students' strengths; March 8).

However, upon further examination of the specific changes to the scheme, I realised it was a sad case of "changing the soup but not the medicine".

Last year, 16,000 students applied for places in secondary schools through the DSA (Record number of pupils applied for direct entry to Sec 1; Jan 23).

I cannot imagine the resources needed from schools to do this selection. How could they do it, if not through written tests?

It is a lofty ideal and near impossible to screen so many applicants through interviews and other means only. It would also give rise to "ambiguous" selection criteria.

Furthermore, why does the MOE still allow students to apply for the DSA using their strengths in science, maths and English, when these are academic subjects?

There will be a bias for Gifted Education Programme students, as they get deeper coaching in these subjects in school. Many of these students also come from privileged backgrounds and have more resources for tuition and prep courses.

It was also reported that there would be no change in the DSA selection criteria for the Integrated Programme schools, but all secondary schools would now be allowed to accept students via the DSA. This does not help the situation and only wastes more school resources.

I strongly urge the MOE to ditch the use of academic criteria in DSA admission.

Students who are strong in academic subjects are likely to do well enough to enter their dream secondary school through the Primary School Leaving Examination.

The DSA should focus on its original intent - to recognise talents apart from the academic sphere, and allow admission based on sports and the arts.

Loh Shurn Lin (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Disallow applications with academic subjects'. Print Edition | Subscribe