Direct School Admission (DSA) program was introduced by Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) for Primary and Secondary students who are talented in non-academic achievements.

Singapore School Admission System

There are 2 main centralized school admission systems in Singapore. The Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) Posting system is for Primary students to opt for Secondary school. The Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) is for Secondary students to opt for Higher institutions. Both systems use academic performance as the main criteria for school admission.

DSA allows schools to set their own criteria to admit students with non-academic achievements and talents. DSA also allows schools to exercise autonomy to admit students outside of the MOE centralized admission systems. Selected students are directly admitted to their choice school even before the release of examination results.

DSA And Academic Performance

While schools are allowed to adopt their own admission criteria for DSA, most will also state explicitly their academic requirements for acceptance of DSA students. DSA students are often admitted at lower academic performance than non-DSA students.

Top elite schools are known to set even lower academic requirements for DSA students. MOE allows elite schools to admit up to 100% of “discretionary places” for DSA. There are known cases of DSA admission into top elite secondary school at a PSLE score of 216, compared with non-DSA standard of 265. Elite Junior Colleges are also known to admit DSA students at O-level of 18 points, compared to non-DSA standard of 6 points.

DSA Selection Framework

DSA aims to “promote holistic education and provide students an opportunity to demonstrate a more diverse range of achievements and talents”. It also “aims to give participating schools greater flexibility in selecting students while holding to the key principles of transparency and meritocracy”. MOE does not define nor explain what is within the framework of “key principles of transparency and meritocracy”.

Most schools accept DSA students with measurable qualities such as “exceptional skill and talent”, “dedication and leadership”. Many schools also specify subjective attributes such as: “commitment, discipline and perseverance”. Some schools even stipulate “character and courage” as prerequisites.

School Autonomy And Discretion Places

As DSA becomes more popular, students are quick to use it to gain entry into their dream school. Parents would send their children for external training at age as early as 4 in arts, music, sports, languages or information technology. Most external training is time-consuming and expensive, such as sailing, golf, badminton, flying and robotics.

In addition, parents also sign their children up for as many competition as possible. During DSA audition and interview, some schools accept students based on competition certificate. Students with national or international competition record are almost sure of getting into top elite schools.

Successful DSA By Recommendations

Beside starting training at an early age, it is also common among DSA-seeking parents to look for the “right” coach (Pronounced as Jiàoliàn/教练 in Chinese). Professional coaches are very powerful in the DSA circle as they can easily secure DSA places for their students in elite schools.

Professional coaches who are foreign talents are especially

influential. Many of them are ex-world title holder in their field of coaching. Professional coaches would send their students to attend as many elite schools as possible to attend audition.