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If your child is in a mainstream public school here in Singapore, you’ll definitely already know about the acronym that marks a major milestone in your child’s educationPSLE. And with it comes a slew of decision-making processes, including which secondary school to go to after graduation.

These days, we also have the option of getting our kids into a better school using the Direct School Admission (DSA) route.

What is DSA?

DSA allows your child to apply to a secondary school that offers talent programmes prior to sitting for their PSLE. They can select schools that offer programmes which they are interested in and display an aptitude for. Offers are made after selection processes that consist of interviews, auditions or trials. These selection processes usually happen around May each year. For the most current information, check the MOE website here.

However, after successful enrolment into your DSA school of choice, your child will have to commit to the programme — there’s no backing out!

So is DSA really suitable for your child who seems to be talented at football/drama/chess? Here are seven factors for you to consider over the next few months before makAs such, it would be good to start considering these 7 factors over the next few months before making the decision to apply for it eventually. 

1. What are my child’s interests?

Nikola Stojadinovic
Credit: Nikola Stojadinovic

This is likely the most pertinent question that you need to ask your child. There may be some areas in which you would like your child to excel and you have already invested in money, time and effort to groom them in that particular area — say, coding and programming bootcamps.

However, let’s keep in mind that over the next few years, your child will grow to be more independent in his thinking. They might discover new areas of interest as they learn more about the world. 

Would you want your child to feel stuck doing something that they actually do not have a strong passion for? Spend time talking to your child to kickstart your journey of finding out more about your child’s likes and dislikes, and observe their preferences on a daily basis. Do they show passion for the subject by looking up or indulging in this interest in their spare time, or do they seem to only do it during their enrichment or training sessions? This is a great way to initiate the DSA conversation with your child. 

2. Which secondary schools offer the co-curricular activity (CCA) that my child wants?

There is an impressively long list of secondary schools — 142 in total — that offer the DSA programme in Singapore. These schools offer a wide range of talent programmes, and they are not just limited to sports and games. Others include — but are not limited to — the visual, literary and performing arts, science, mathematics and engineering and uniformed groups.

This means there’s likely to be a place for your child, even if they’re inclined towards a more obscure interest — check out this list of DSA programmes available. Long gone are the expectations that your child must be good in a particular sport or game to apply for DSA. Less well-known talent areas include the likes of Community Youth Leadership, coding, debate, artistic gymnastics and entrepreneurship. 

3. Will the school culture fit my child? 

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The culture of a school, especially one steeped in decades of tradition, can certainly be unique. Many aspects of the school make up the culture — these include the niche school programmes offered, the kind of school celebrations it organises, and the kind of values that the school advocates. One thing that is often overlooked is a school’s mission and vision. It can give you an inkling of what goals the school envisions for their students. 

Your child will spend a good bulk of his teenage years in secondary school. Find out more about the school culture to help you see if your child would fit into such an environment. Browse through the school website and look for any of their official social media platforms. These will provide you with a glimpse of the school events and happenings. 

4. Is it easy to get to and from school?

As much as a school may seem perfect for your child, it also matters how accessible it is from your home. Remember that if your child enrols in a talent programme, good chances are that they will spend a lot of time in school. This is especially the case when they are nearing competition season and may have frequent practices that end late in the evening. 

We want to be a pillar of support to our children not only during the school selection process, but also throughout their school journey. Are we able to provide logistical support to them when the days get tough? Unless you can arrange for private transport for late after-school pick-ups, it is helpful to see if it will be easy for your child to travel to and from school via public transport. 

5. What are the subjects offered to students?

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Apart from considering your child’s non-academic interests and talents, it helps to map out their academic plans too. When students progress from Secondary 2 to Secondary 3, they will be choosing their subject combination.  The subjects they choose will be what they will sit for the national examinations. It helps to find out what subjects are offered for the different academic programmes at the school. 

It might be too early for your child to zoom into something specific. So, observing your child’s academic strengths even in primary school is a good start. 

For example, if your child shows interest in art and design, find out if the Design and Technology subject is offered at the school. This is good for planning ahead, as there are certain courses in polytechnics with entry requirements – an example can be seen here. Looking ahead to see what academic options are available for your child are some early steps you can take to avoid regrets later on. 

6. What are my child’s post-secondary plans? 

It is also worth thinking about the long-term goals. Is representing the country something you or your child dreams of? Is your child’s talent something that can eventually be developed into a career option? Enrolling into the DSA programme will be a long-term commitment for your child. As such, considering the prospects of the talent area is something that is never too early to do. 

A lot of money, time and effort will be invested into your child’s talent development and as parents, we do want these to bear some fruit.

7. What outcomes do I ultimately wish for my child?

Last but not least, through all these considerations emerges the critical question — what kind of person do I want my child to grow up into? 

Pushing our kids to achieve their maximum potential is what many parents wish to do. We want our children to be better versions of ourselves. However, in our efforts to do so, let’s not forget that our children are individuals in their own right. 

Is it a brand-name school that you wish for your child to enter? Or is it your child’s talent that you really hope to groom? Is it the exclusivity of the talent that will make your child stand out among the crowd? Or is your child’s talent something that can contribute to society?

There’s never a better timing than now. There’s still plenty of time before the DSA decision has to be made, so start thinking about these factors early. May the odds be in your favour!