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DSA for Secondary School: Have You Seen All the Talent Areas that Your Child Can Apply For?

Thinking about secondary school choices after the Primary School Leaving Examination?

The much-discussed PSLE Achievement Levels scoring system made its debut last year, and now that the dust has settled, some parents feel that the DSA or Direct School Admission is the only way to go, if you want more control over school choice.

Why is this so? Well, the advantage of getting a DSA Confirmed Offer from a secondary school is clear — DSA students do not need to meet the school’s PSLE cut-off point for admission. Whether they have applied via the DSA to join the Express or Integrated Programme stream, they will only need to qualify for Express to gain entry, with an AL score of 20.

By the way, do note that students who receive a score of 21 or 22 are offered an option between the Express course and the Normal (Academic) course — you should enquire with individual schools if scores of 21 or 22 would still allow one to accept a Confirmed Offer.

If your child is currently scoring either AL1 (90 and above) or AL2 (85-89) for all subjects, school options will be less of a concern for your family. In fact, you might not want to bog your child down with DSA preparations, and let him or her focus on studying instead!

For most children, however, their grades will not be as stellar. Yet many of them will have strong interests or talents that set them apart from others, and schools are eager to receive such students as well.

How would you know if the DSA is right for your child?

Let’s say you are eying the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme for your daughter, which is only available at Methodist Girls’ School, and you know that the programme’s cut-off point in 2021 was 7 points. If your daughter is a brilliant communicator who is passionate about current affairs and social issues, and prefers learning independently without a prescribed structure, you might feel that the IB programme is very suitable for her. In this instance, your daughter should go ahead to apply for the course through the DSA, especially if you can foresee that scoring 7 points in the PSLE would be challenging for her.

You should also be aware that the following schools only accept students through the DSA-Sec process:

But what if your child’s interests and talents are less obvious? Luckily, you still have time on your side. Although the key dates for DSA 2022 have not been announced, the Ministry of Education recommends that parents of Primary 6 children use the early part of the year to explore school choices.

Broadly, the talent areas for DSA are grouped into these categories:

  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Language & Humanities
  • Leadership & Uniformed Groups
  • Performing Arts
  • STEM or STEAM (click here to find out the difference between these terms)
  • Sports & Games
  • Visual Arts Design & Media

If your child is performing well in a CCA and representing the school, this would be the most obvious DSA focus for your child, and you can consider secondary schools that offer the same CCA. Or perhaps your child is a prefect, or has been given other growth responsibilities in school — you can then apply for the DSA via Leadership.

To search for DSA opportunities for your child, use either of these approaches:

  • Shortlist schools that you and your child like, visit their websites, and look at their DSA offerings.
  • Use the Ministry of Education’s SchoolFinder to narrow down DSA options by main categories, or search by specific talent areas.

For many parents, if you have not looked carefully at DSA talent areas before, you may be surprised by the diversity of options. For instance, did you know that your child can apply for the DSA via Forensics? Or Sustainable Development?

Below, we highlight some lesser-known DSA talent areas that were offered in 2021, so that you can see if anything suits your child. For the full list of DSA options, please refer to the MOE SchoolFinder, or check with your schools of interest directly.

DSA Talent Areas that You May Not Know About

A

Aerospace (Girls & Boys)
Applied Sciences – Forensics (Girls & Boys)

B

Bilingualism (Girls & Boys)
Bilingualism (Girls & Boys IP)
Bilingualism (Boys IP)
Bilingualism (Girls IP)

C

Chemical & Applied Sciences – Fragrance (Girls & Boys)
Coding (Girls & Boys)
Coding (Girls & Boys IP)
Community Youth Leadership (Girls & Boys)
Community Youth Leadership (Girls)
Community Youth Leadership (Girls IP)
Communication (Girls & Boys)
Computational Thinking Skills (Girls & Boys)
Critical Social Inquiry & Media Literacy (Girls & Boys)

D

Debate & Theatre (Boys)
Debate & Theatre (Boys IP)
Debate & Theatre (Girls)
Debating & Public Speaking (Girls & Boys)
Debating & Public Speaking (Girls)
Design & Technology Innovation (Girls & Boys IP)
Design, Technology & Engineering (Girls & Boys)
Digital Media (Girls & Boys)
Digital Media (Boys)

E

Electronics (Girls & Boys)
English Literary – Debate & Scrabble
Entrepreneurship (Girls & Boys)
Environmental Science (Girls & Boys)
Environmental Science (Girls & Boys IP)

F

Food Science & Technology (Girls & Boys)

H

Health Science (Girls & Boys)
Humanities (Girls & Boys)
Humanities (Boys IP)

I

Infocomm (Boys IP)
Innovation (Girls & Boys)
Innovation (Boys)
Innovation (Boys IP)
Innovation (Girls IP)

J

Journalism (Girls & Boys)

L

Leadership & Character (Girls & Boys)
Leadership & Character (Boys IP)
Leadership & Character (Girls IP)

M

Mechatronics, Aeronautics & Robotics (Girls & Boys)
Media (Girls & Boys)
Media Arts/Film/Photography (Girls & Boys)
Media Arts/Film/Photography (Boys)
Media/Journalism (Girls & Boys)

P

Photography/Videography (Girls & Boys)
Programming & 3D Modelling (Girls & Boys)
Public Speaking (Girls & Boys)

R

Research & Presentation Skills (Girls)

S

Science & Technology (Girls & Boys)
Science for Sustainable Development (Girls & Boys)
Scientific Investigation (Girls & Boys)
Scientific Investigation (Girls & Boys IP)
Social Innovation (Girls & Boys)
Social Innovation (Girls)
Social Innovation (Girls IP)
STEAM (Girls & Boys)
STEAM (Girls & Boys IP)
STEM – Aeronautics (Girls & Boys)
STEM – Aerospace & Aviation (Girls & Boys)
STEM – Creative Engineering & Modelling (Girls & Boys)

Want to chat with other parents about the DSA? Join the DSA 2022 conversation on our KSP forum, and check out our DSA 2021 chat for more useful insights!

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