Guide Series: DSA for Secondary School


This guide provides comprehensive  Information on DSA (Direct School Admission) process for secondary school.

New to DSA-Sec? Here are 5 Things You Need to Know

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Is your child about to take the leap from primary to secondary school? Direct School Admission (DSA)-sec can help your child land in an ideal secondary school without being overly reliant on their PSLE score. As a parent, it’s natural to be concerned about where your child will wind up for the next 4 years of their life. Here’s some DSA info that you should know.

Why Apply via DSA-Sec?

You’ve probably heard, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Indeed, it can be risky to completely bank your child’s future on a single PSLE score. While they may perform well academically most of the time, there is no guarantee that they will do well in the final examinations. Choosing the traditional PSLE route puts a lot of pressure on your child to achieve peak performance during these examinations.

Applying through DSASec means your child may get a place at an ideal secondary school even before PSLE, provided they achieve a PSLE cut-off score set by that school. This takes a weight off your child’s shoulders for the final examinations.

What is DSA- Sec?

But first, what is DSA? DSA-Sec is an exercise that allows students to apply for secondary schools before taking their PSLE papers. It is a way to “chope” seats in a secondary school ahead of time. If we can be “kiasu” when it comes to getting seats at the hawker centre, why not when it comes to getting our children enrolled into good schools!

The DSA program was started by MOE in 2004 to place less emphasis on academic results and provide an alternative path for students to get enrolled in their ideal secondary schools. 

Let’s face it, not everyone is a bookworm or meant to be the next Einstein. However, each child has their own set of skills and qualities. They may excel in a more diverse range of achievements that their PSLE scores cannot fully measure. These children deserve to be educated and groomed in secondary schools that recognise their talents. If your child is passionate about a particular sport or art or demonstrates leadership qualities, they may be eligible for the DSA-Sec program.

Secondary schools are interested in accepting students who exemplify excellence in specific areas as they enhance their reputation and culture.

For example, some schools actively participate in sports competitions and have a strong reputation in them. Attracting students with existing talents in that sports boost their chances of grooming the next big winners.

 You should also be aware that if your child wishes to pursue their studies in either of the secondary schools listed below, they accept students only through the DSA process. These schools are:

  • NUS High School of Mathematics and Science
  • School of Science and Technology
  • School of the Arts (SOTA)

However, for SOTA, students are not required to apply via the Ministry of Education’s DSA portal. Instead, they should apply directly to SOTA.

For more information on SOTA, read : SOTA – Everything You Need to Know About School of the Arts Singapore

For children interested in the Singapore Sports School, please note that you should apply directly to SSP.

For more information on SSP, read : Singapore Sports School (SSP) – All that you need to Know about it

Talent areas for DSA-Sec

The talent areas that can be counted under DSA-Sec mainly fall into four categories: sports, arts, academic subjects, and leadership. Going into more detail, these include:

  • Sports and games
  • Visual, literary and performing arts
  • Debate and public speaking
  • Science, mathematics and engineering
  • Languages and humanities
  • Uniformed groups
  • Leadership

 Students may demonstrate their skills in one of these areas by representing their primary school in a relevant CCA, holding a role in performance, exhibiting stellar results in a subject, or having a leadership role. It’s also a great sign if they have won any accolades or competitions.

You can heave a sigh of relief knowing that so many talents are recognised for DSA applications. Your child can be an artsy-fartsy creative, a fanatic sports lover, an academic, a debater, a uniformed group leader, or a prefect! You can lean into their natural talents and guide them to strive towards various achievements to increase their chances of a successful DSA application.

However, not all schools offer the same talent areas for DSA. If you want to get your child into a specific school, you may use the MOE SchoolFinder to explore the types of CCAs they offer. 

It is also essential to note that your child still needs to qualify for his DSA school academically. Meaning, Your child’s primary school information will automatically be shared with the applied DSA-Sec school(s) except for the School of the Arts and Singapore Sports School, as both schools handle direct admission. This information includes your child’s P5 and P6 academic results to gauge whether they are likely to qualify for the cut-off required by the school.

The DSA Secondary Application Process

1. Explore and Shortlist Schools

The first step is to learn more about the DSA-Sec each secondary school offers. Explore school choices and discover their talent areas by visiting the school websites. Each school also has its own selection process and schedule. Keep track of these easily by creating a spreadsheet or keying the dates into your calendar. This period usually spans from January to May in your child’s primary 6 year.

2. Submit DSA Application

Next, you must submit your child’s DSA application online through the DSA Sec Portal. The application date for 2023 is Thu, 4 May to Wed, 31 May 2023; however, the date may differ slightly from year to year. Check the MOE DSA website to get the most updated information.

3. Attend Interviews or Auditions

Lastly, if shortlisted, your child will need to go through interviews or auditions conducted by the DSA schools, usually between late June to September. The selection process differs from school to school. Hence, it is recommended that you keep tabs on the latest news from these schools and check their websites for more information on DSA secondary.

To know more about DSA Interview read  DSA interview and how to ace it

Should my child apply for DSA-sec?

DSA is a great option for well-rounded students who exhibit excellent performance in a specific talent area. If your child is naturally inclined towards a particular activity and has demonstrated great prowess in it, then DSA is an excellent opportunity for them. However, if your child excels academically (without a specific subject interest), they may be contented with applying through their PSLE Score. 

DSA applications are intensive as they require your child to prepare for interviews, auditions, and submissions. This can take away some of their focus from preparing for the PSLE. There is also no guarantee that they will be successful in their DSA applications.

Thus, parents are advised to judge for themselves whether their child is better off applying through DSA-Sec applications or going through the traditional PSLE route.

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