IP, DSA - about maximising every child's potential

We thank the writers of recent letters commenting on the Integrated Programme (IP) and Direct School Admission (DSA) schemes (Our learning culture needs a reset, by Mr Seah Yam Meng, Jan 2; Time to relook DSA scheme, by Madam Chong Sze Kah, Jan 2; Spread top students among more schools, by Mr Gerard Lee How Cheng, Jan 3; and Talk to people on the ground to find sound solutions, by Ms Yeo Boon Eng, Jan 7).

The Education Ministry's (MOE's) approach to tackling inequality is not to cap the top, but to uplift the weaker performers.

Hence, we have implemented various initiatives, such as learning support programmes and enhanced financial assistance to help students who are weaker or from more challenging backgrounds.

At the same time, MOE has established multiple pathways in our education system to maximise opportunities for every child to fulfil his or her potential. The IP and DSA are part of this effort.

The IP in particular, meets the needs of students who are strong in academic subjects, with a broader and less structured learning experience. DSA, in turn, provides an alternate path, on top of the PSLE, to admit students into IP schools.

However, as in all courses, there will be students who do not cope well in the IP. Our schools will provide the necessary support and guidance to help these students.

If necessary, these students can be transited to the O-level track in the same school, or to take up alternative pathways in another school. They need not be regarded as failures. We have to recognise that students' needs can evolve and alternative paths are available to them as they develop.

As a society and as an education system, we must do better to enable our students to feel safe learning in any pathway, and to switch paths if the need arises.

Parents have a big part to play too, when choosing secondary schools for their children. Considerations should include the student's aptitude, needs, interests, and how the school can support the child's development.

We should not be fixated on a particular path for the child.

The IP serves the great majority of its students well. To abolish or to curtail the programme would be a pity, and would cap the potential of our students.

Liew Wei Li (Ms)

Deputy Director-General of Education (Schools)

Ministry of Education

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'IP, DSA - about maximising every child's potential'. Print Edition | Subscribe