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The SOTA Experience – from a first-year student

SOTA

“SOTA? Do you just do arts 24/7?”

That’s what I will commonly hear about my secondary school. Many people expect School of the Arts (SOTA) to churn out students who will go on to do “arts”-related degrees and pursue careers in the arts.

That is not the case. In SOTA, arts and academics share the same stage. SOTA’s vision is to produce “Creative Citizens for the Future”. SOTA graduates are not expected to pursue art careers, but to bring about a positive impact through creativity in whatever profession they choose to pursue.

Before SOTA

Before joining SOTA, I too, had my worries. Thoughts like “would it be too stressful” or “will there be very strong competition” raced through my mind as I confirmed my application for the Theatre programme. Personally, it was a big step, turning a simple passion into an integral part of my life. However, I can proudly say that I never regretted joining SOTA.

Adapting to SOTA life

My first few months in SOTA were spent getting used to the environment. Like any other secondary school, the additional subjects, mainly humanities and literature, brought about more stress. We had to learn the fundamentals of the subjects and distribute adequate revision time to each. Some school days ended as late as 5.45pm. However, with appropriate time management skills, I was able to cope well and even enjoyed the lessons.

The teachers always found ways to make lessons fun and interesting. They would create Kahoot quizzes, where a class would compete and answer questions through the online platform. Small prizes were given. This created a competitive yet engaging learning environment for us. I was able to gain a better understanding of the subjects.     

Specialised artforms were also incorporated into our schedule. Despite doing what I enjoyed, I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the due dates and showcases. Luckily, the projects were spaced out in the term, which allowed us to focus on one project at a time. Overcoming the initial fear before a showcase was tough, but once I stepped onto the stage, I felt at ease and was genuinely happy as I was doing what I love.

Examinations in SOTA

In SOTA, examinations and projects made up our overall grade, most of which comprises the mid-year and end-of-year examination results. Compared to primary school, there was much more material to be memorized, especially for the Humanities. I started memorization early for the Humanities and learnt to rewrite important concepts and points at least 4 weeks before the exams.

IB school

As an IB (International Baccalaureate) school, we had more projects incorporated into our curriculum and grades. I found this good as the overall grades are not fully dependent on examination results. It also gave us a chance to foster good relationships with peers through projects.

Subject changes

English was replaced with ELCT (English Language and Critical Thinking). In ELCT, we no longer did grammar and vocabulary exercises. Instead, we were made to brainstorm issues in our society, analyze and evaluate multiple perspectives. We were able to communicate our views and opinions through essays. I enjoyed ELCT the most as I became more aware of social issues and learnt to develop opinions on them.

Integrated Arts

Besides doing our artform, we are also given opportunities to try out other  artforms through Integrated Arts (IA). For example, in Visual Arts IA, we were made to contour draw our friends without looking at the paper. Our pencils were not supposed to leave the paper and we had to keep looking at our friends while drawing out their features. When I looked down at my drawing, I was surprised it was not as bad as I expected it to be! This was an eye-opener for me.  We were later given a glimpse of what visual arts students did in their art form.

We also brainstormed ways to connect different artforms together. For example, dance could be used in physical theatre, where meaning was expressed through movements in an ensemble. For our theatre piece in Term two, we had to perform a physical theatre piece “Jabberwocky” in an ensemble. We incorporated what we learnt in Dance IA and found different ways to use space dynamically.    

Through Integrated Arts, I was able to appreciate all forms of art and find ways to bring together different artforms. We were also given chances to watch a variety of art showcases – from dance showcases to visual art exhibitions.  We were often brought to public performances to observe professionals at work. Dance and theatre classes were brought to watch performances at the Esplanade, while visual arts and literary arts classes were brought to art exhibitions and bookshops. As a cohort, we were sometimes brought together to watch shows at the Esplanade.

In a nutshell, I had a very fulfilling and enriching first year at SOTA. I feel incredibly privileged to be given a chance by my parents to pursue my passion for the arts and will work hard in the arts and academics.

MORE ABOUT SOTA

For those who are keen, here are some commonly asked questions about SOTA:

What is the cut-off point to enter SOTA?

Once your DSA application to SOTA has been accepted, you need to qualify for the express stream (≥200) to enter.

Where can our children pursue 3rd languages in SOTA? Is it done in the campus or do they have to go to MOE campus.

Mother tongue languages (Chinese, Malay, Hindi, Tamil) are required to be taken up by all students in SOTA. If you choose to opt for additional optional languages like Japanese, French, German and Spanish, you have to go on MOE language centers after school on Thursdays to study the languages. You will be given a list of additional languages to choose from depending on your PSLE score. This is not a compulsory subject to take up, but there will be tests and examinations for the language.

Are there prefects in SOTA?

No, we do not have prefects in SOTA. Instead, we have these committees to maintain order in the school and strengthen the school spirit:

Class Management Committee Council
(CMC Council)

Leadership Studies Committee
(LSC)

Communications Committee
(Comms)

In all the years, we have the CMCs, who are essentially the class monitors of each class. At the start of the year, the class would elect 4 candidates who are deemed fit to lead the class. LSC and Comms are for Year 4s and above. Students who apply for LSC and Comms are interviewed and go through a selection process. Students in Comms organise school events and students in LSC are trained to lead groups and to further their leadership skills. Find out more about SOTA’s leadership programme in the link here: https://www.sota.edu.sg/why-sota/student-development/leadership-development

Is there CCA in SOTA?

No, there isn’t. Instead, we have CAS groups run by Year 5 selected students. CAS stand for creativity, activity and service. Some CAS groups include Badminton, Tchoukball, Netball and Debate. There are many CAS groups and there will be presentations during morning assemblies about CAS groups for students to better understand the CAS groups they are planning to join. LCD records are like the VIA records in Primary school. They will be included in the report book if you join certain CAS groups.

Can I DSA to SOTA through a particular subject?

No, DSA to SOTA is only available through Dance, Theatre, Music, Literary Arts, Visual Arts and Film (for Year 5 and 6s). More information about DSA to SOTA can be found here:
https://www.sota.edu.sg/admissions/how-to-apply-to-sota/dsa-secondary

Do refer to the link below for more FAQs:
https://www.sota.edu.sg/about-us/faqs

This article is contributed by a first-year SOTA student. KSP parents: we welcome contributions from your children, especially if they are studying in a secondary school or a tertiary institution and would like to share a story about their school life. To find out more, email irene@covocal.com.

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