2016 saw many changes to the DSA selection process and it was certainly a trial run to test out upcoming changes to the DSA system in 2017. Competition for IP schools was the toughest since its inception in 2004 due to increase applications. At the end of the 2016 selection process, there were many surprise outcomes as well as disappointments among the parents and students who undertook this route. As the new year approaches, the rat race will begin all over again for students talking the PSLE in 2017. The enquiries are coming in and the same questions are being asked by a new cohort of students and parents. Preparation has already started for some while others are just beginning to consider attempting DSA. To start off the new year, I have put together a series of FAQs to help you understand this process better and to save myself the need to sound like a broken record. If you have more questions which I may be able to answer, you can post it on the Contact Form. So, lets get started.
What are the chances of my child getting a spot in an IP school without attempting DSA?
The chances are very good if your child has constantly attain excellent results since Primary 4 in all subjects. This will most likely mean that your child will achieve a T-score ranging from a possible high 250s and above. This will allow your child to meet the COP (Cut- off Point) of IP schools. The most coveted schools are RI, RGS, NYGH, HCI and their COPs range from 258-264. If your child’s academic results tend to fluctuate , there will be a 50% chance that your child can still meet the COPs of the other IP schools. The other option is to opt for coveted Express schools such as MGS, ACSI, CHJI St Nick, SJI, VS and SCGS as their COPs range from a high 240s to mid 250s.
From your personal experience, what were some of the lengths a parent would go through for their child to succeed in DSA?
If money is abundant, the sky is the limit. Even if that is not the case, parents will make sacrifices to ensure their children have a chance of entering a coveted school. It can start as early as kindergarten if the aim is to help the child develop a talent or life skill. Enrichment classes in areas such as sports, music and ballet are most common however parents are now moving towards developing communication and leadership skills in their children. The easiest way to figure out what kind of enrichment classes to consider is by looking at the domains offered by IP schools during the DSA selection process. Most parents do develop their children’s talent in one area if it shows up early in a child’s life however as many children are late developers, talents are usually discovered much later when they are in Primary 3 or 4 and some in secondary school. As such some parents will not leave it to chance and start placing their children through different enrichment courses in order to discover it. Its like being in a maze and you have to keep walking until you find the middle. Some times you take a wrong turn so you just have to double back and start all over again. This is a very expensive option so I don’t recommend it. Also your child will be extremely unhappy being forced to attend lessons that do not interest them.
Tuition (or in some cases ‘cram’ schools) with ‘Super Tutors’ are not uncommon. This is another expensive affair. Six years ago, some of my communication students told me that they would work with 10 to 14 different tutors per week but now a days the number has reduced to 4 to 7 tutors per week.
Competition is another popular area – the more the merrier! Well maybe not so merry for the children unless they are competitive by nature. Private competitions are becoming more popular as schools tend to select the same group of students for school base competitions leaving out many students who are keen. There are also many different types of competitions from Academic, Arts, Sports and more. The entry fees are usually affordable however once the children compete at the International level, it becomes very expensive.
Which group of children embark on the DSA selection process and why do they choose this route?
In the early days of DSA, GEP (Gifted Education Programme) and Sport students make up the bulk of the applicants. Now a days, anyone will try DSA if they are aiming for the IP track because these schools take in up to 50% of their students through DSA and the Specialise Schools like SOTA, NUS HIGH, SST and Sports school take in 90% to 100% via DSA.
I understand that the application process differs from school to school. Can you take us through the process briefly?
You are correct! Every school has their own unique selection process. The simplest only requires an application (usually Express Government Schools) while others require the the addition of Personal Statements, Portfolio, GAT/Subject testing, Half-day selection and Interview. If your child chooses the sports or performance domain, there will be trials and auditions. (Mostly IP schools). Specific information can be found on the school’s website.
The government recently announced some proposed changes to the DSA selection criteria. What is your reaction to the proposed changes? Will it help reduce stress?
Starting from 2017, DSA selection will have more emphasis on talents and less on academics. This is a return to the original purpose of DSA which is to provide talented students an opportunity to enter a coveted school without needing to achieve the required T-score.
Will this reduce stress? Yes, if we are looking at Express schools. More students will have a chance of securing a place with a lower T-score if they are talented in some area. No, if the goal is to enter an IP school. No matter how talented your child is in one area, academics still plays a major role. If students do not have good academic ability, they will not be able to complete the IP programme and will be place in the O’level track. Should too many students in an IP school end up in the O’level track, the standard and reputation of the school will be affected. So IP schools will try to take in those who are not only talented but show an ability to survive the academic rigours. This means parents will spend more time and money developing a talent as well as focus on academics if the goal is the IP track.
The upcoming changes will also encourage more students to attempt the DSA selection in the hopes of getting a place. Thus competition will be tougher. 2016 saw a spike in the number of students attempting DSA. Many IP schools also started implementing changes to the selection process in 2016 as a test run before the official announcement in 2017.
Will GEP students still receive priority during the DSA selection in 2017?
I don’t know the overall percentage of GEP students getting a CO (Confirm Offer) in 2016 but I did notice more of my main stream students getting a CO or wait-listed in 2016. Those who were wait-listed received a CO after the PSLE results were released. Many of my students’ parents also gave feedback that fewer GEP students in their children’s schools received a CO from coveted IP schools. So, it may be safe to say that GEP students need to offer more than just academic achievements unless it is in areas such as Math/Science Olympiads.
Do you think DSA should be removed entirely?
Singapore believes in meritocracy and DSA is really about meritocracy. If one has the ability, one should be given the opportunity. Over the years, had it not been for DSA, 50% of the students that I have coached in Communications skills would not have gotten into IP schools because of the high T-scores.
The DSA process is also a learning journey for students who attempt it as they learn valuable life skills while preparing for the selection process. Skills such as persuasion, social interaction, problem solving, interview etiquette to name a few. All this will come in useful even if they do not receive a CO.
Getting a CO also means less stress during PSLE for both students and parents. With less worry, students end up performing better in the examination.
If I want you to coach my child on Interview Skills, how can I contact you?
You can click this link and submit your request. If my service matches your child’s need, we will instruct you on how to do the online booking.
If we are unable to help you, I will advise you on how to move forward.
Here’s wishing everyone a successful DSA journey in 2017!