Choosing a DSA school

Submitted by hazel chan


Take note all IP schools have their own promotion criteria – be it using all subjects grades or L1R5 as total, and not all school use 50 or 55% as promotion benchmarks – some use 60%. Some IP schools even used to count language grades as double weightage but I believe they have since changed that. In general, math and sci are accelerated in the IP schools, although different schools are on different speeds of acceleration. In actual fact, the schools that are commonly associated with being very advanced in some of their subject syllabus might not be “faster” than the others – I have since learnt the difference between “wide” and “deep”when trying to understand the different schools’ subject offering (not going to elaborate more here). I guess this makes each school unique in their offerings. Project work vs pen and paper exams varies between schools and subjects as well (in terms of marks weightage).

In general as well, higher mother tongue in the SAP schools are compulsory (and mandatory to include their grades in the promotion criteria). In the non-SAP schools, there is usually some leeway. Some SAP schools may not be very open to admit during the open houses that HCL is one of the crucial subjects to be considered for promotion – so do ask these questions if these are important to u and your child. Have seen IP students who struggled with math/sciences, and have similarly seen IP students who struggled with the languages/humanities in the IP schools. At the end of the day, it boils down to the student’s interest and aptitude in the subjects – an open discussion u should have with your kids to see which schools (IP or not) fit them better.

Teachers in IP schools will help the weaker students, and these weaker students might be from either DSA (any domain) or those who entered via psle scores. For subject combo selections at the end of year 2 for IP, it is not correct to say that grades don’t matter – because most schools use their overall (eligible) grades to decide if they take a 8, 9 or 10 subject combo in year 3, which might in turn limit their subject combo choices. However, some schools indeed do not need to check the subject grade to decide if u can take that particular subject in year 3 – interest takes precedence as long as the child has shown ability in handling its academic demands. Some schools (especially the ones with bigger cohort sizes) will try to accommodate their students’ request to do the subject combo of their choice and will open up more classes if the students meet their requirement.

For those looking at o level schools, the situation will be similar as well. Each school will have their own unique offerings and promo criteria, there will be teachers who are willing to help and opportunities for each student if they are up for the challenge. So choose the schools that u think suit your child best, or which school will benefit him/her best.

Do visit the schools’ open houses (physical and e) to get more current info. The good thing is that some physical open houses are back! It is always nice to visit the schools together with your kids to get a feel of the schools’ vibes and what some call culture. Personally I believe the schools will “speak” to your child if that’s the school that attracts them, so let them have the chance to make their own decisions. There is always something to be learnt from each learning journey that your child takes, whether branded or not.

Whether a school is IP, dual track or o level track, has easier paper, lower promo criteria, more “GEP students”, etc – it actually doesn’t matter as much as we think. What matters is your child’s attitude towards learning, whether the school is his/her choice (or your choice?), and most importantly, what kind of environment do u and your child feel will suit him or her more during the next 4-6 years? I have shared this other post in dsa2021 if anyone is keen.

Another point I feel parents didn’t consider enough is the domain or talent development of each school. It depends on u and your child’s aim in this dsa exercise – is it the school or domain that u ultimately want? If it is the domain – some schools are champions in the domain that your child is going for, some schools maybe not so, even if both types of schools offer the same dsa domain. Some schools also attract more talents even though these kids didn’t go in via dsa. Be prepared if your child is not a champion/heavy weight in that domain – there may be less opportunities for participation. Let your child go in with the awareness that a bigger pond will definitely have many fishes, some bigger than them. So an honest question to ask your child – do they want to play (as in participate in these events) or they are just happy to be part of a winning team. Other schools may not win all the awards but your child might get more participation opportunities.

I noticed a new trend over the years – more kids will dsa to chope not just the school, but also the cca domain. Which might explain why increasingly, dsa kids are doing as well as, sometimes even better than, the ones who went in by psle score. Remember dsa is one way to get your child in the door, the rest is up to your child. Keep an open mind, be open to challenges, and learn from any failures (if any). Even if one door closes, another door will open, as long as your child reaches for the knob. There are indeed many pathways to success now so let’s help our children grow to their fullest potential. All the best to all applicants!


Thu 19/05/2022