You are attending a DSA talk by a popular secondary school. They are talking about the revised domains that the school will be offering from 2017. There are the usual domains such as Sports, Aesthetics, Bi-lingual and S.T.E.M. Wait . . . what in the world is S.T.E.M? How will my child be able to qualify for this domain when she is only 12 years old!
Don’t despair, let me explain in layman terms what it all means. This abbreviation is well-know to many who are in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths because it was introduced years ago in the United States to encourage students to focus more in these areas of studies. When it was introduced in the United States, it was considered “the next big thing” in education. The reasoning behind STEM education is that the United States was not preparing sufficient number of students, teachers and practitioners in the STEM fields. Secondly, their industries needed more workers in these fields due to an aging workforce and an increasingly innovative world market.
Now this sounds very familiar especially since our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong said that he wants to convert Singapore into a “Smart Nation”. Thus we are in need of workers who are able to work in STEM fields and are innovative as well. So, how does all this result in a secondary school coming up with a STEM domain for DSA?
Let me try to enlighten you on the logic behind this choice of domain. When the Education Minister announced that IP schools should not offer academic domains for DSA, it places IP schools into a conundrum because they need highly proficient students to DSA into their schools. Without strong academic abilities especially in Maths and Science, the school will have difficulty preparing students for the A’levels with a focus on these subjects. (In general the humanities students are usually fewer in these schools or discouraged to take this route, if possible). So how can a school create a talent for students without non-academic talent? The answer is S.T.E.M.
This domain is so broad that many students including GEP students can easily select this domain and successfully get a Confirm Offer (CO). The range of abilities that can fall under this domain are plenty and very subjective. After all IP schools still have full autonomy to make the final selection.
So what will students learn to do if they are place in the STEM programme? Hopefully they will be taught how to apply their knowledge to real world problems. After all that is the original purpose of a STEM education.
So how should you position your children’s list of achievements to quality for this domain? You can use the strategy describe below to help you submit an attractive application to the school:
- Excellent results in Maths and Science. (In STEM education, success in science and maths is important. Technology and Engineering is only integrated into the syllabus when appropriate.)
- Maths Olympiad and Science Olympiad successes make a great impact on your child’s application. (Students must also know how Maths and Science are used to solve real world problems. This question will most likely be asked during the interview.)
- Other areas of achievements/abilities to enhance your application:
- Creativity, Design and innovation (All those E2K school projects/competitions where students had to create and build something is going to come in useful now)
- IT skills (e.g. coding which is the rage now)
- Problem-solving skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Able to work in teams
- Public Speaking Skills (You need to be able to present your project ideas)
The good news is that 2017 is the first year this domain is introduced so they will focus more on those students who show a strong ability in Maths and Science. In the following years when it becomes a more popular domain, they will start looking beyond just Maths and Science and look for qualities similar to those I have highlighted in bullet no. 3.
As more schools start announcing new and unique domains, I will try to break it down into layman terms for everyone. All the best on your DSA journey.
Jackeline Carter (Public Speaking/DSA Coach)