Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DSA or how to bring forward PSLE stress

Some parents have asked me to expound on the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise. Since Lesley-Anne is undergoing the process now, it won't be prudent for me to share her progress and my thoughts in detail until after. However, I can share the factual information and mechanics of DSA. You can get a good overview of DSA from the MOE website here.

I first heard of DSA only when Lesley-Anne was in p4 and even up to last year, I had a hazy idea of what it entailed. It is essentially an advanced booking for a school, to put it bluntly. Remember back in our generation when we had schoolmates who may not have made the cut-off point to our school but managed to get in via their prodigious violin playing or Michael Jordan-esque basketball skills or something like that? Well, DSA is similar except it's no longer considered the "back door", it's now a mainstream MOE process.

To me, the two biggest advantages of DSA are:
  1. Schools have an offical channel to recognise and admit talents in both academic and non-academic areas.
  2. By giving a place in advance, you drastically reduce the stress of PSLE as the make or break exam.

Individual schools offer DSA through one or more of the following areas:

  • Academic - can be special ability in one particular subject or overall high ability academically. GEP students apply under this category.
  • Arts - special ability in performing or visual arts. Usually requires a minimum level of certification and/or performance at the school or national level.
  • Sports - special ability in a particular sport. Usually requires a record of achievement at the school or national level.

This year, 74 secondary schools are offering DSA so the availability is quite extensive. Once again, I highly recommend you visit the school you're interested in. The fit of the school is very important. When I mentioned I had changed my mind about a school for Lesley-Anne after visiting it, I was so tickled to get all these emails from concerned *coughkaypoh* parents asking me what school it was! I'm going to go out on a limb and say that when I visited yet another school, I also had a 180 degree change of heart, this time in the other direction. From not being on my radar, the school now has become a real contender because Lesley-Anne, Kenneth and I all loved its ethos.

And this time, I will state upfront: don't email me to ask me what school it is because I won't tell you! I'm not being a tease, I'm just getting concerned that some people are taking my word so seriously that they let it influence their own choices. What matters to me and fits my child may not fit yours, so do visit the schools and get a sense of their cultures.

This is the DSA process (different schools have varying dates but these are the general time-frames):

May-July: You apply for DSA to the school(s) of your choice. Many apply for more than one school but I don't recommend the buffet mentality as the DSA process itself can be very stressful for the child. In my opinion, two is ideal, three tops.

June-August: Selection process. Some schools require you to sit for written tests and attend interviews (usually for academic domain). For the arts and sports domains, auditions and trials are often required.

Late August/early September: Release of DSA results. You will receive the results for each of your DSA applications, which is either Confirmed (yay!), Waiting List (hmm...) or Rejected (sob). I'll probably need a Valium on that day.

Late October: If you have at least one Confirmed or Waiting List result, you will be given a School Preference Form to indicate your choices. If you list a Confirmed offer as one of your choices, you are GUARANTEED a spot in that school. How great is that??

Late November: You will be given your DSA school allocation results on the same day as the PSLE results. If you are successful in DSA, you can proceed to do fun things like buy your new school uniforms. If you are not, then look at your PSLE results, hopefully you don't faint, and then decide which secondary school you want to apply for under the annual centralised S1 Posting Exercise (where the majority of p6 kids choose their schools).

I will be praying very hard that Lesley-Anne is successful in her DSA because I know that if she has to rely on PSLE, I'll probably keel over from the stress...


Anonymous said...

Hi Monica

Re:'What matters to me and fits my child may not fit yours, so do visit the schools and get a sense of their cultures.' Well said. Different strokes for different people, isn't it?

DSA sounds like a good exercise, but I am sure it comes with its own set of anxiety and stress. I am surprised that there are 74 schools offering DSA this year. What a huge buffet of choices.

Wishing L-A all the very best, and pray you stay calm throughout, Monica:-)


daphne said...

Thank you for this blog, it really help me understand better.

In this instance, does that mean I will have to really think longer term now into secondary school when considering primary school for the children? Would this long-term thinking help or maybe not because we don't know if things are going to change in the next few years?

I sure feel like throwing in the towel & let whatever comes, comes. :|

Veronica_L said...

You shouldn't worry, I'm sure she will not disappoint you. Does that mean that even if you (ok, not very possible lah) fail your PSLE, you still get a place in the "confirmed" school or will you be kicked out?

monlim said...

LL: Thanks! Yes, DSA comes with its own stresses. Because of DSA, we stress over the SA1 results more because it's used for application. So as the title suggests, it merely brings forward the PSLE stress!

Daphne: It's hard to plan for every scenario because the local education scene changes so drastically and quickly. I would take it day by day and just ensure that my kids have a good educational foundation. Then you'll be more prepared no matter what MOE throws at you :)

Veronica: Once you get DSA, you just have to meet the minimum requirements, like cannot fail lah, must at least meet the cutoff for Express stream, for eg. Other than that, it's a confirmed place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon,
Geez, this is so stressful. Good luck to L-A's application.


breve1970 said...

Hi Monica

All the very best to Lesley-Anne. I bet I will feel the stress in 4 years' time.

daphne said...

Hi Mon,
Thanks! I thought so too after much thoughts last night. We'll see when we reach there! Like you said before, it's a journey. I'll take it easy & not tear my hair out.

All the best to L-A's application.

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