New direct school admission portal to be launched; NUS, NTU to drop O-level grades when taking in poly grads

From next year, all schools offering Secondary 1 places through DSA will use a centralised online portal which means that students only need to fill in one online form to apply to multiple schools. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To encourage students to develop their talents in a range of fields and open up more pathways for them to nurture their potential, the Ministry of Education is introducing more changes to the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme and the university admission scoring system.

From next year, all schools offering Secondary 1 places through DSA will use a centralised online portal, which means that students only need to fill in one online form to apply to multiple schools.

Application through the portal will be free of charge, to remove financial barriers for any student and to encourage students, regardless of background, to apply for places under the scheme.

The change to the university admission score system, which will come into effect in 2020, will see the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University dropping the 20 per cent weightage given to O-level results for polytechnic graduate applicants.

Polytechnic graduates will be assessed primarily based on their polytechnic Grade Point Average, which the ministry said provides a better and more current reflection of the knowledge and skills that they have gained during their polytechnic education.

Students can, however, continue to submit their O-level results relevant to the course of study as additional information to support their applications.

The other four universities - the Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Social Sciences - consider factors such as polytechnic GPA, aptitude tests and interview performance in assessing an applicant, and take into account O-level results only where relevant.

Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah, who announced the changes at the Arts Education Conference held at Raffles City Convention Centre on Thursday morning (Nov 8), said the current practice by the two universities perpetuates the impact of the O levels on polytechnic graduates, even though many of these students go on to do very well at the polytechnics.

"This, along with other initiatives such as the (university) Discretionary Admissions, is in line with the other changes we have made to our education system to allow students with different learning styles to be evaluated more holistically."

"It also better recognises late bloomers, and creates more opportunities for those who flourish after discovering their interest when they are older," she said.

NUS, NTU and SMU can offer up to 15 per cent of their yearly undergraduate places through the Discretionary Admission scheme, which considers the abilities of students beyond their academic results.

On the change to the DSA, Ms Indranee revealed that 3,000 Primary 6 students this year who applied for places through the scheme have received confirmed offers. This is 500 more than last year.

This is due to changes to the scheme that came into effect this year, including allowing all secondary schools to admit up to 20 per cent of their non-Integrated Programme intake via DSA. This is an increase from 5 per cent for schools with distinctive programmes and 10 per cent for autonomous schools.

Concurrently, the ministry also refined DSA selection processes to help schools identify the potential in students, even if these students may not have had the opportunity to demonstrate their talent yet.

For example, during the selection for arts, schools are assessing students on their potential ability - such as a sense of rhythm, an eye for aesthetics, or the ability to sing in tune - and place less emphasis on whether the student has gone for competitions or won awards.

She said schools no longer administer academic ability tests during their DSA selection.

She said: "Doing so brings our schools' DSA process and objectives back to the original intention of recognising specific talents, not general academic talents."

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