SINGAPORE: The Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise this year will proceed, with some adjustments in how schools evaluate students in light of COVID-19 social distancing measures, said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday (May 5).
Responding to a parliamentary question on the topic, Mr Ong said that schools will accept applications between mid-May and early June, similar to previous years.
“But there will need to be some adjustments in how schools evaluate the students,” he added.
The DSA exercise for secondary schools allows Primary 6 students to apply to some schools before taking the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
READ: COVID-19: Some students to be allowed to go back to school from May 19 under easing of circuit breaker
Adding that while the ministry strives to maintain the same number of DSA placements as last year, traditional selection methods such as trials and auditions would have to change because of safe distancing measures, said Mr Ong.
There were about 3,500 DSA placements in last year's exercise.
Schools will instead conduct interviews through video-conferencing tools, he said.
To “ensure an even playing field with a common setting and equipment” for the e-interviews, students will go to their own primary schools for the e-interviews.
“Their sessions will take place from early July to mid-September, so quite a couple of months away, and they will be scheduled and spaced out to avoid intermingling of students,” Mr Ong noted.
“Schools may also conduct simple e-auditions in a similar way, for arts categories such as singing, dancing or drama.”
With the suspension of the National School Games and in the absence of selection trials, secondary schools “will need to give more recognition to the student’s talent, potential, passion and character” through their school track record and online DSA applications, he added.
“Schools will look out for the student’s demonstrated dedication to a sport and training attitude, even without a placement in the National School Games.
“This is not entirely new, but if the circumstances this year force schools to re-evaluate their definition of a good sportsperson, I think it’s not a bad outcome at all. Each school will have to decide how it wants to evaluate a student and apply it consistently and fairly.”
Primary schools will “step up efforts” to encourage students with ability and potential, especially “those from less advantaged family backgrounds”, to apply.
“This will ensure that students from less advantaged backgrounds have equitable opportunities to access DSA,” said Mr Ong, adding that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will announce details at a later date.
“COVID-19 has taken away regular classes, and also our tried and tested methods of grading and DSA selection. But instead of stalling our education reforms, it has underscored their importance and provided impetus to press on,” he said.
Adding that the acceptance of online learning tools and capabilities across schools were “uneven” before the pandemic, Mr Ong said that having everyone “forced into” home-based learning helped overcome that problem “almost overnight”.
“We wanted to emphasise more on Character and Citizenship Education and especially moral education, and COVID-19 has provided us with many important teaching moments. Similarly, we have progressively been reducing the over-emphasis on examinations and grades in our current system.
“Now, COVID-19 is forcing us to adopt more alternate evaluation tools and make greater efforts to exercise judgment on the potential and character of a child. Education reforms will therefore continue. So will the DSA exercise, and all the more so this year.”