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Parent’s take on DSA: “Do what’s good for their self-confidence”

21 May 2021

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Mum-of-two Tan Lay Ping talks about why her daughter chose the DSA route, and what she wanted to guard against. 

For Madam Tan Lay Ping, the Direct School Admissions (DSA) was initially not on the cards when she broached the topic of school choice with her daughter back in 2018. Her criteria were: distance, school culture and a cut-off point close to her children’s PSLE results.

While her daughter was looking through schools’ websites as part of her secondary school search, she was drawn to Zhonghua Secondary School. She was attracted by the school’s vision of developing students into scholars and leaders.

Choosing DSA

“She was impressed with the programmes and the opportunities to conduct independent research,” Mdm Tan recalled. “However, her school results then were just slightly below the cut-off point for Zhonghua. So I told her that it was a little risky and asked if she’d want to try DSA.”

Fortunately, performing arts was one of the DSA talent areas for Zhonghua and her daughter has a strong passion for music. She had been playing the violin since kindergarten, and later, the clarinet when she joined her primary school band.

“We did not introduce the children to music with DSA in mind,” Mdm Tan clarified. “Music is actually a personal interest for me, but I didn’t have the opportunity to learn when I was young. That’s why I was keen for my kids to pick up an instrument. Of course, I’m glad that they inherited my interest in music!”

Keeping the grades up

Even though Mdm Tan supported her daughter’s decision to try for DSA, she believed there was no need for extra preparation or coaching when it came to music. In fact, her daughter had stopped taking additional music lessons in Primary 5 so she could have more time for her studies. Mdm Tan believed that her daughter’s Band CCA and regular practice at home would be sufficient. 

“I was actually more concerned about her studies,” explained Mdm Tan. “It’s ok if she misses the cut-off point by just a few marks, but if her results were too far behind that of the non-DSA students, I would reconsider. I didn’t want her to feel inferior to her peers or stressed - so I told her if she likes this school, she has to work for it and not just depend on DSA.”

It certainly seems like the motivation helped. Her daughter not only got a place in Zhonghua Secondary through DSA, but her PSLE results were also on par with her peers. In the three years since, she has enjoyed herself fully in the school band, and also got to explore her other interests, by joining the library club, and the school’s debate team.

The right fit to grow

So, does Mdm Tan now believe that DSA is always the answer? No.

A year later, she was having a similar discussion with her younger child. Her son also played an instrument - in his case, it was the saxophone - but he was not keen to take the DSA route at all.

“He knew straightaway that he would like to follow his sister and join Zhonghua,” Mdm Tan shared. “However, he was not keen on doing the extra work of filling out the application form and going through the selection process for DSA. I left it to him since it’s his own path in any case!”

Her son eventually got into Zhonghua Secondary with his PSLE results.

DSA or not, Mdm Tan believes the criteria she set out for her children i.e. distance, school culture and cut-off point form a good basis for them to make the right choice for their secondary school.

“To other parents, I’d say don’t go for the school name. It’s a lot more important for your children to have an environment where they are on par academically with their peers, so they won’t face unnecessary stress and can develop self-confidence. To me, that’s the most important.”



Another parent shares her experience at Parent's Take on DSA: “Let your child take the lead”

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