Schools have ways to ensure fair admissions

Attempts by ambitious parents to game the Direct School Admissions (DSA) system are not limited to the School of the Arts (Sota).

There have been many reports of parents who sign their children up for "sports tuition" or coaching to enhance their chances of entering specialised independent schools.

On blogs and forums, parents also often share information about the interview and audition process.

The specialised independent schools here say they also have processes in place to detect a student's genuine aptitude.

At the National University of Singapore (NUS) High School of Mathematics and Science, students who pass initial selection tests are invited for a selection camp, where they are put through exercises that can shed light on their "problem-solving abilities, communication abilities and creativity", said NUS High principal Lee Bee Yann.

"The questions are original and tasks are structured such that it is hard to 'prepare' for them."

The School of Science and Technology, Singapore (SST) also holds a selection camp on top of a written test and portfolio submission.

National Institute of Education don Jason Tan said it is "commendable" that Sota is making an effort to address the issue of socio-economic inequalities which may limit the range of students who join such specialised schools. But a lot more work needs to be done, he added.

Primary schools, in particular, have an important role to play in identifying talent and encouraging pupils to apply for the specialised schools, especially those schools which have traditionally seen fewer pupils applying for the DSA scheme.

"If no one in your peer group has made it to the school, or if you have no parental encouragement or role models to emulate, you might not even take the first step of applying to the school," he added.

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Schools have ways to ensure fair admissions'. Subscribe