In-person trials, interviews for Direct School Admission to resume this year

Applications for DSA will open from 11am on Thursday to 3pm on June 1, 2022. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - In-person interviews will resume this year for the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme, which allows students to gain entry to secondary schools and junior colleges through their aptitude in non-examinable fields, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Wednesday (May 4).

This will let students better demonstrate their talents and potential in sports trials, for example, or be assessed in person for their musical abilities, after two years of fully virtual DSA exercises.

Students and parents can submit applications to the 142 secondary schools involved from 11am on Thursday to 3pm on June 1. Details for submissions to the 20 JCs in the scheme can be found on their respective websites.

MOE said the resumption of in-person interviews is in line with the national relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, and is possible because of the high vaccination rates among students and staff in schools.

The DSA scheme provides a pathway for students to gain acceptance to secondary schools or JCs through their abilities in co-curricular activities outside of national examinations, and is an important avenue to ease the pressure off eligible students from the Primary School Leaving Examination or O levels.

Ms Esther Foong, 37, a member of parent group SGFamilies, said DSA interview panels or those in charge of the trials may need to be more discerning this year, with many students’ abilities in their selected areas possibly not as developed because of Covid-19 disruptions in the last two years.

This is especially true of students who were not able to train at their schools during the pandemic, which could put them at a disadvantage relative to students who could afford outside training or had better opportunities.

“Students whose talents are mainly developed in school may lose out a bit more,” she said. “This year’s on-site DSA auditions or interviews will really need the panel to look beyond the child’s portfolio or the awards attained to the potential of the student.”

Dr Poonam Pal, a 41-year-old physiotherapist whose daughter will apply for the DSA this year, said that having in-person interviews will also allow schools to have a more holistic understanding of a child’s abilities, even in areas that are unrelated to sport.

“You can only assess a child’s spontaneity, passion and hunger through face-to-face interaction,” she said.

“Though the pandemic has changed some format of assessments using technology, it lacks the emotional and human touch of in-person conversation.”

MOE has said that starting this year, more students can be admitted to schools via the scheme, with places for government and government-aided JCs increased from 10 per cent to 20 per cent of their intake for the two-year A-level programme.

This is amid an increase in applications to the DSA – 31,400 were received last year, up from 30,500 in 2020.

Separately, applications for early admission to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) based on course-specific aptitude and interests will start from May 26, while that for polytechnics will begin from June 6.

Some in-person selection processes will also resume, with MOE saying that whether they will be conducted virtually or in person will depend on course requirements.

MOE said some Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) selections were already conducted virtually before the pandemic, and that institutions had learnt much from the online selection processes in 2020 and 2021.

"MOE will work closely with ITE and the polytechnics to ensure EAE selection is conducted fairly and rigorously for all students, regardless of modality," it added.

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