DSA-SEC: How COVID-19 changed the way schools conducted their selection process

Testimonials from former students who took the 10-week DSA Preparation Course

COVID-19 fatigue – we are all experiencing it but how did this pandemic affect the way DSA-SEC selection process was carried out in 2020 and 2021. This is what I will be discussing in this article. I will focus more on the way Integrated Programme (IP) schools changed the way they conduct their DSA selection process as I prepare more students for these schools in our 10-weeks DSA Preparation Course. Details of this course were shared in the previous post: https://jcartercentre.blog/2021/11/25/january-2022-intake-j-carter-centre-for-public-speaking/

Let’s talk about the situation in 2020. The pandemic took everyone by surprise as a result secondary schools had to rush to set up online options to continue with the selection process. There were many teething issues moving the process online – not only were the schools grappling with video conferencing software, but they also had to change the way they conducted the trials, auditions, written tests, and interviews. At the same time, they had to work closely with the primary schools to set up the video conferencing equipment on their end in order for the candidates to connect with the secondary schools they had been shortlisted for.

The following information that I am sharing is based on the feedback given to me by parents and students who had taken my DSA Preparation Course. As such it will be an overview of how some of the schools carried out their processes. For confidentiality reasons, I will not mention the name of the schools in this article nor entertain questions in the comments section or through private messaging (PM).

  • *Application Stage
    • Due to time constraints and the need to seek the help of primary schools to carry out the selection process, secondary schools were more stringent in the way they shortlisted the candidates after the application stage. They only shortlisted those who had credentials that reflected strong abilities and interest in the specific talent domain applied for.
  • *Hardcopy Portfolios and Personal Statements
    • Many schools did away with the need for portfolios because primary schools were tasked to send the student’s performance records directly to the secondary schools. The online application also asked for a list of achievements or activities carried out privately but this was limited to 10 so those with lots of enrichment activities had to scale down what they could share with the schools they were applying for. Only certain domains still required a portfolio and usually a soft-copy version to be uploaded to the school site or sent by email to the school. Some of the domains are: English, Science, Innovation, and visual arts.
    • As for personal statements, mostly leadership domains require one.
  • *Sports domain
    • Sports students were asked to send videos showing how they played although it was optional – before the school shortlisted them for the next stage. This caught many off-guard as parents do not normally video taped any of their children’s practise sessions. Some parents who invested in private coaching on the other hand were luckier as they had videos of their children’s private coaching sessions.
    • On selection day, some schools recruited the help of primary school P.E. teachers to put the students through some activities and exercises while they watch the performance through video conferencing. These were mainly for team sports. Individual sports candidates had to depend on their past performances and competition achievements to secure an interview with the school.
  • *Performing Arts domain
    • Students were asked to send videos of their performances before being shortlisted for an interview.
    • Some required shortlisted candidates to audition live through video conferencing before conducting a 1-to-1 interview.
    • Others required videos, auditions and interviews.
  • Academic domains
    • Several schools did away with online interviews for academic domains and only required students to complete written tests online. The software used by some of the schools prevented students from going back to the previous questions to change their answers once it had been submitted. There was also a time factor involved and students were unable to continue with the test once the time limit was up.
    • Others required the students to undergo a vocal Q & A segment. Students heard a recording of a series of 5 questions and were given 15 minutes to plan how they were going to answer them. They were then given 5 minutes to record their answers. Not everyone was able to answer all the questions in 5 minutes.
    • Some showed the students videos on certain issues and asked them to share their thoughts through a written essay.
    • For schools that retained the interview portion of the selection process, they chose to conduct group or individual interviews via online video conferencing. The individual interviews were smoother but the group interviews faced some issues due to students logging in from different primary schools at the same time. Some candidates joined the meeting later than the allotted time due to technical difficulties. As a result, some group interviews were rather rushed and less confident students had difficulty speaking and standing out from the group.

After overcoming all the teething issues the schools faced in 2020, the 2021 selection process was better. However, changes were implemented again and some of the methods were done away with as they did not work well the previous year.

  • * Application stage, Portfolios, and Personal Statements
    • There was no changes for these segments and schools were just as strigent in shortlisting students for the DSA testing, auditions, and interviews.
  • *Sports Domain
    • This year, there were less requirements for trials and videos. Instead students were shortlisted directly to the interview segment if they showed some potential. As there weren’t any National School games or competitions and hardly any sports training for students, IP schools gave out less Confirm Offers (CO) for this domain. Many were waitlisted (WL) instead and these were later switched to CO after PSLE results were released. However, unique sports like Fencing and Shooting for example were assessed differently as students in these sports mainly compete and train privately. Shooting for example was able to compete virtually while fencing had some private competitions running this year.
  • *Performing Arts
    • Not much changes for this domain and students still send in videos, audition and interview through video conferencing. Private competitions and examinations for music were still happening although virtually so students from this domain were able to enhance their musical portfolio of achievements. However, similar to the sports domain, fewer CO and WL were given out for this domain by IP schools as there was a reduction in public performances and practice sessions in schools due to cancellation of CCA.
  • Academic domains
    • Some of the schools conducted written tests only for some of the subject domains like Mathematics and Bilingual, while most carried out both testing and interviews and others only focused on conducting interviews.
    • There were fewer technical difficulties this time around as schools were more familiar with using the video conferencing software.
    • More COs were given out under Academic and Leadership domains.

*Please take note that the information shared about DSA application, portfolios, personal statements, sports, and performing arts domains does not apply to SOTA or The Singapore Sports School. These SIS schools conduct their own application and selection process and are not part of the DSA-SEC selection process offered by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

There is a good chance that the 2022 selection process will still be conducted online as the COVID-19 situation is still uncertain. However, the process may change again depending on how the situation will be by the time July 2022 comes around. We will have to wait and see in May 2022 when schools will publish their criteria for DSA to be sure how they will conduct the selection process. In the meantime, all the best to those who will be attempting DSA selection next year. If you would like to register for the DSA Preparation Course for Primary 6 students starting in February 2022 the details are as follows:

Programme Details and Dates

  • For Primary 6 students attempting DSA in 2022
  • Maximum of 8 participants
  • 1.5 hours weekly for 10 weeks
  • Course dates: Thursdays, 17/02/2021-28/04/2021
  • Time: 5.30 pm-7 pm
  • Venue: Face-to-Face at J Carter Centre
  • Vancancies: 4 (as of 5/12/2021)

For more information, please refer to the previous blog post: https://jcartercentre.blog/2021/11/25/january-2022-intake-j-carter-centre-for-public-speaking/

Happy Holidays!

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