Almost everyone is applying for DSA or grooming their child for it. What is DSA and is it the right choice for your child?

As my son prepares for the national Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), I find myself floundering in other acronyms: DSA, IP and IB. Let’s deal with the first acronym: DSA or Direct School Admissions.


What is DSA?

Very briefly, DSA is a direct route for students to secure a placement in their desired secondary school or junior college BEFORE the general public. In order to do that, these students have to fulfill a set of criteria and their placements are approved by the schools they applied to, thereby giving these schools an opportunity to select premium students to represent their student body.

It seems to be a win-win situation for all concern. In this post, we are talking about the DSA-Secondary School Exercise that was introduced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2004.

While it is meant as an alternative for primary school students to enter their desired secondary schools without the pressure of the national exams, the DSA applicants will still have to sit for the PSLE and achieve the stipulated grades to qualify for entry into the schools.

An Ai Tong (primary school) student shares her thoughts on DSA:

Going through DSA was not as stressful as others may think. In fact, once you’re confirmed a place in the secondary school, you feel more at ease going for the PSLE. Of course, you still must study hard to get the minimum aggregate score but without the common stress and fear everyone faces. I encourage the current P6 batch to go for the DSA exercise. After all, there is no harm in trying and getting a confirmation is an added bonus.

Ng Xue Qi, Class of 2009 (6B), who successfully entered Raffles Girls’ Secondary through Table-Tennis DSA

Sounds good doesn’t it? If you wish to read more testimonials from other students, click HERE.

Should my kid apply via DSA or not?

There are many differing opinions among parents on DSA.

The first set of parents is pro-DSA as it offers students who are not academically inclined an advantage into elite or branded schools. These kids usually display keen talents in arts, music, dance or sports in their early years. Parents may begin to groom their kids as early as primary one in preparation for DSA. Click this link to see if your child is talented in these areas.

The second camp consist of parents who are against DSA because it confines the child to the same activity for the next four or six years of the secondary school years.  Entering a secondary school via DSA is very much like entering university on a scholarship. Your child is bound contractually to fulfil his/her responsibility for the duration of the programme admitted to – that is 4 years of your child’s life (6 years if he/she is in IP programme). Your child is expected to honour his/her commitment to the posted DSA School.

Hence, before applying for DSA, consider this:

Is your child interested in the area he/she is applying for DSA in the LONG term?

If your answer is YES, then DSA is a wonderful alternative.

If your answer is NO, then DSA can be a gruelling sentence for the child to serve. Although I hear that some schools like Hwa Chong Institution allows the students to change their DSA option, but these schools are the exception rather than norm. So please do your research before committing your child.

Application to DSA is purely a matter of preference and dependent on the aptitude of your child. 

For some parents, it is a strategy to get their kids’ foot into the door of the “right” school. For others it is a necessity because their kids are more talented in other areas than academics. Then, there are the lucky parents of children who already know the path they want to travel on in life. These are the kids who dictate their own paths and the parents are merely the facilitators in their journey.

The application process is not less pressurizing. What I feel is more important to take note is the journey towards DSA and how will the success or failure of the application affect your child.

I hear that over thousands of kids have applied to a specialized Math and Science school that accepts only 100 student a year. And of the hundreds who apply to a sport in a particular school, only 40 of them are accepted into the DSA program.

I do not mean to bring out the kiasu-ism in parents. Rather, I want to highlight the importance of parents to help our kids align their expectations and build their resilience should their applications not be successful.  So do observe your kids’ carefully and discuss with them if this is a viable option for your family.

Read my related post on Tips & Guidelines for DSA which highlights the terms that schools look out for in their DSA applicants.

The Application Process

Finally, here is an overview of the application process. The application period for each DSA secondary school may differ. Generally it begins in May and ends 1 July. The media will usually help announce the beginning of the DSA-Sec exercise when it is published on MOE website. Alternatively, you can check out this MOE link for more information on DSA admission and the list of participating schools. Here is a sample of this year’s application deadlines.


Image: Ministry of Education Singapore

Once your child is successfully allocated to the DSA School, he/she is NOT allowed to participate in the annual Secondary One posting exercise after the release of PSLE results. This is a relief if your child’s PSLE grades did not meet the required aggregate to enter the school. Your child already has a placement in the desired school.

However, if your child scored really well, he/she will not be able to change the school committed to. Hence, have a chat with your child and think carefully before committing to the school.

You may also be interested to read our post on the application process and prepping for the interview.

Best of  luck with the DSA application process!

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Till our next post, love yourself, love one another.


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