From expanding DSA to new ITE diploma: 5 things to know about the latest education changes

Students from Woodgrove Secondary School enjoying a mass workout.
Students from Woodgrove Secondary School enjoying a mass workout. PHOTO: ST FILE
A view of the Ministry of Education building at North Buona Vista Drive.
A view of the Ministry of Education building at North Buona Vista Drive. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A series of changes to Singapore's education system were revealed during the Ministry of Education's (MOE) debate on its budget on Tuesday (March 7).

Announcing its inclusive vision of "many paths, new possibilities" in Parliament, MOE said it remains committed to helping everyone follow their strengths and passions by offering multiple paths and creating opportunities for all.

Here is a quick look at the key changes.

1. Expansion of Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme 

From 2018, all secondary schools will have the option to reserve up to 20 per cent of their O-levels programme places for pupils entering via the DSA scheme. 


The selection process for the scheme, which was started in 2004 to allow schools to take in students based on their talents and not just solely on grades, will be refined to better recognise specific talents and move away from recognising strong general academic abilities.

Application for the scheme will also be done through a central MOE portal by 2019.

2. More secondary school places reserved for non-affiliated students

From 2019, 20 per cent of places in 27 secondary schools that are affiliated to primary schools will be reserved for those who do not benefit from affiliation priority.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said the move is to ensure that schools are open to all students, regardless of their backgrounds or connections.

The 20 per cent figure, according to MOE, takes reference from the ministry's policy (introduced in 2014) of reserving 40 places for students with no prior connections to the school during the Primary 1 registration exercise.

3. Subject-based banding for all secondary schools

The pilot scheme, which was launched at 12 secondary schools in 2014 to allow Secondary 1 students from the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams to take subjects at a higher academic level, will be expanded to all schools by 2018.

"We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach... For students with uneven strengths across their subjects, they can stretch themselves in their areas of strength through subject-based banding," said Mr Ng.

Should the students perform well in the subjects after starting Secondary 1, they may be offered the chance to take them at a higher level.

4. Increased aptitude-based admissions at tertiary level

From the next academic year, the intake allowance for polytechnics' Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) will be increased from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent. This means an estimated 500 more places will be made available.

This comes after strong interest was shown among students entering the polytechnics this year, revealed Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.

The exercise, which was introduced in 2016 to replace the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise, allows students to secure a place in a diploma programme of their choice using course-specific talents and interests, even before they sit the O-level exams or ITE final exams.

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will also start the EAE this year. It will admit 15 per cent of the intake.

The ITE EAE will replace the ITE Special College Admissions Scheme (SCAS), which considers students with talents and achievements in areas such as sports and arts, and the Special Admissions Exercise (SAE), for those with course-related aptitudes applying for selected Higher Nitec courses.

5. New technical diploma for ITE graduates

The new diploma under the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme will be awarded by ITE. Compared to a polytechnic diploma, the key difference is in the mode of learning - it will be apprentice-based.

It is part of MOE's push to make students' transition between study and work as seamless as possible.

For a start, the diploma will be introduced in sectors identified based on industry demand and the presence of strong apprenticeship partners. These sectors include security system engineering, rehabilitation therapy, offshore and marine engineering, and mechanical and electrical services.