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The Applicant Series #4: Direct Admission School

The Applicant Series showcases works done by hopeful writers who have applied with inkmypapers over the years. The results and comments will be provided first, followed by the actual essay/report written by the applicant

Applicant’s Results: Failed

Title: Write a 1,000 word essay on: “Should the expanded DSA scheme for pupils entering Secondary 1 be further revised for it to be reserved only for non-academic talent?”

Comments: This piece is poorly done by the applicant. Firstly, the use of language is less than ideal. The writing style is also pretty casual, and doesn’t suit the academic writing style that we demand in our work. It also makes many claims without backing up with sources. There is also issues with the flow and logical reasoning in the piece. Logical reasoning in particular, is especially catastrophic. While we can teach applicants in our training program to have better flow and academic writing style, we can’t teach logical reasoning. As such, the applicant is rejected.

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In an attempt to better recognize and acknowledge students’ talents and skills aside from their academic achievements, the Ministry of Education (MOE) decided to expand the Direct Schools Admission (DSA), where all secondary schools may guarantee up to 20% of the non-integrated programme for students by 2018. This also means that for the 2018 P6 cohort, all affiliated schools will not utilize the general academic ability tests for the DSA selection anymore. Hence, this expansion diverges from the traditional model of admitting students to secondary schools, where they must first sit in their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and will be assessed according to their scores.

Since its inception in 2004, the DSA scheme has received much criticism because instead of aiming at its original target in recognizing the student’s specialized skills and talents, it has become a “back door” for the economically-privileged students for them to enter popular secondary schools (Baharudin, 2017). Last year, the head of Government Parliamentary Committee for Education Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua said in the Parliament debate that it is an “open secret” that DSA is only an advantage for those students who are more affluent than others (Yang, 2017). While, currenly, the DSA offers students applications based on academic and non-academic fields, it is still a question of the right implementation of the scheme, and whether this new system will actually benefit the students themselves.

This essay will first briefly explain the system of education in Singapore, which is related to the implementation of the DSA-Sec. Then it will clarify on some points about the different academic and non-academic fields the DSA scheme offers to students. This will be followed by the different issues surrounding DSA: educational, economical and social. Simultaneously, it will illustrate the two sides of the coin: issues for and against the DSA scheme. Finally, it will present the position of this essay on whether or not the DSA should be further revised to accommodate only the non-academic talent. That is, this paper does not adhere to this type of revision because it believes that a holistic and diverse nurturing of the students through both academics and non-academics must be in place for them to achieve in their respective fields.

Being a first-world country, Singapore is most especially home to top education. This is further proven in its system of education even at the primary level, where a strict curriculum is in place. One of the salient features of this system is the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), where all students are obliged to take this type of test. Their results would then be used for their admission to a secondary school. One of the social implications of this naturally hard exams is that ‘kiasu’ (hate to lose) parents  (Davie, 2016) would often pressure their children to top their exams so they could get in top secondary schools. This has led to a social problem in the country where, according to Phneah (2016), the Singapore Education System has become so “stressful”. This has become a serious social issue especially with the suicidal death of a P5 student last year, who took his own life after failing his mathematics and higher Chinese tests for fear of being scolded by his parents.

On the economical side and statistics, families in Singapore almost spent $1.1 billion a year only for tuition for their childen in 2015 (Phneah, 2016). Also, according to her, grades are still the basis of getting a good job.

This has led the Ministry of Education to revamp the PSLE system and expand the Direct System Admissions (DSA) scheme, where, according to Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng, the Singaporean government should help the students make their time worthwhile by engaging themselves with their own interests and passions in life (Teng, 2016).

Another issue surrounding the expansion of the DSA is its educational aspect. For one, the Asian Parent (2017) adheres to the implementation of the DSA. It said that the PSLE scores does not have to be the influential factor for their children to be admitted to good secondary schools anymore. For instance, if the student is good at mathematics, all he needs is a portfolio of his achievements, depending on what the school will require of him. If the student is good in drama, he/she may apply at the Xinmin Secondary School via this programme (The Asian Parent, 2017).

Davie (2016) insisted that the expansion of DSA makes no sense at all because it remains to be an avenue for “exam-bright students” entering secondary schools. She has interviewed parents who testified that the PSLE scores already gives advantage to the academically-bright students. Kiem (2016), on the other hand, does not agree and says that those who are opposing should consider a holistic community of students who are both academically and non-academically fit for their own futures.

The expanded DSA scheme is good in paper by all means, because it currently offers both academic and non-academic fields for students. That is, according to the Ministry of Education (2017), there are seven academic and non-academic fields available for students: 1) Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation; 2) Languages and Humanities; 3) Leadership and Uniformed Groups; 4) Performing Arts; 5) Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics; 6) Sports and Games; and 7) Visual Arts and Media. This means that there is a wide variety of fields to  choose from. It is not only restricted to those students who are good in, say badminton or mathematics alone.

It has been established that the expansion of DSA should not only be good in paper but must be implemented in a way that the students will benefit from it. That is, that they will be able to hone both their academic and non-academic skills and talents at the same time. Moreover, this essay does not agree that the expansion of DSA should only be reserved for non-academic talents. It should revolve around a diverse scheme in which the students may further hone and discover their true potentials


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