Jan 13, 2009

How to Manufacture All-Rounded Students

So I had been told that Little Wang's school does not have any co-curricular activities for Primary One students. CCAs are for the older kids (I believe they start in Primary Two or Three).

However, Little Wang comes home with a stack of application forms yesterday. "Daddy, look", he says. These application forms are not for CCAs. They are for optional courses, outside the usual school hours, but conducted on the school premises.

I browse through the forms and I am very impressed. The range of optional courses is wide. For example, there's speech & drama; a variety of music classes (guitar, cello, violin, keyboards, drums); and art courses.

Furthermore, unlike most of the CCAs in my day, these optional courses appear to be well-organised and conducted with some genuine expertise. They are not conducted by the school's own teachers (whose specialties are really teaching English, Maths, Science and 2nd Language, not other things). Instead, external service providers (for example, full-time music teachers at music schools) will come to the school to conduct these courses.

As I had mentioned, the courses are optional. Almost all of them lead to some form of a final examination conducted by some independent external body. However, the application forms make it clear that the activities are optional, and the exams are just as optional. Students can come to participate just for fun and enjoyment.

I start thinking that perhaps the education system has really changed a lot. Maybe it's now really focused on learning and all-round development, not just grades. Perhaps it really is striving to make schooling an enjoyable experience for kids nowadays.

Then suddenly, I notice the acroynm "DSA" on one of the application forms. The form says that one of the objectives of the course is to help students succeed with the DSA process. Ooooh, I see.

For those who don't know, DSA stands for Direct School Admission. It is still relatively new and was an invention by ex-Education Minister Tharman. Tharman's vision was to create an education system with "alternative avenues of success". He didn't want an education system where everyone was constantly just fretting about grades, grades, grades. The DSA was one of his ideas.

Basically, the DSA allows schools (such as secondary schools) to select and admit students on selection criteria other than formal academic grades (such as PSLE results). What are those other selection criteria? It depends on the school. Schools participating in the DSA have the discretion to set their own DSA criteria, and to select and admit a certain number of students every year, based on those criteria.

For example, one school may decide that its criteria is "sports excellence in soccer, basketball and tennis". Another school may decide that its criteria is "music and drama" or whatever. The DSA has become quite widespread. According to the Education Ministry's website, there are more than 60 secondary schools in Singapore participating in the scheme.

So now it has become possible for a Primary Six student to secure a place in a good secondary school, even a top secondary school, even before the student has taken his PSLE examination. (DSA admission results are announced, before the PSLE exam season begins). Clearly, this can go a long way in making the PSLE a less stressful and traumatic experience for some little kids in Singapore (not to mention their parents).

Overall, I think that the DSA is an excellent idea. Among other things, it provides some encouragement to parents to allow their children to pursue their hobbies or interests (apart from merely making them study their school subjects). Now parents, for example, may be more willing to allow their young children more time to paint more pictures or play more soccer or join the Boy Scouts. That's because all these activities all have some potential of helping the children to get to the next stage of education (i.e secondary school).

However, one can also see how the DSA can backfire. Arguably, this has already happened.

All these years, the traditional problem in Singapore is that the system (and that includes parents and teachers) pushes students too hard towards academic excellence (i.e scoring A's for English, Maths and Science etc). Now, however, if the DSA backfires, it will be because the system pushes the students too hard towards academic excellence AND something else.

Soon Singapore's stressful paper chase may become not just a chase for A's in English, Maths and Science. It will also become a stressful chase for that certificate that proves you can play the piano or sing and dance or swim well.

After all, your place in a good secondary school could well depend on that.


Anonymous said...

ST Dec 5, 2008
Death over CCA: Every child's voice should be heard

A fallout from the DSA initiative?


Anonymous said...

As i understand, most of these extra CCAs' expertise require additional fees. This is especially rampant in the affluent schools. I can imagine the parents' financial stress especially in the not so well to do families and also the kids' stress (undue perhaps) not able to select due to financing criterias.

Anders Brink said...

Here's a question you want to ask yourself: what's so good about an all-rounded education?

I have seen so called all around students from a prestigious school pour scorn upon the kid from a less prestigious school. The all arounded kids are now office workers chasing the rat race. The kid from the less pretigious school has a Ph.D and is working as a researcher in a top 10 university.

So what is the value of this kind of all-arounded education again?

singaporecitizen said...

"I have seen so called all around students from a prestigious school pour scorn upon the kid from a less prestigious school. The all arounded kids are now office workers chasing the rat race. The kid from the less pretigious school has a Ph.D and is working as a researcher in a top 10 university."

we all have anecdotal evidence to show the black swan.

the key question should now be, how many of those people you have described exist?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Before we all get sidetracked, I should point out that it's not just the "prestigious" or "top" schools that are on the DSA scheme.

There are 60+ secondary schools in the DSA scheme and an additional 20+ secondary schools in the sister scheme (the "niche programme" schools).

All the schools that are usually regarded as "top schools" are in the scheme (eg Raffles Institution, Catholic High, Hwa Chong Institution, Raffles Girls, CHIJ Saint Nicholas, ACS(I)) but there are also a large number of lesser-known and neighbourhood schools in the DSA programme.

List of schools available here.

Anonymous said...

These "optional course" are not FOC right?

Anonymous said...

Goodness ... I can see it now. Tuition class for scouting...

Mr Wang Says So said...

No, they are not FOC. So once again, the kids from the wealthier families gain an advantage over the kids from the poorer families ...

Anonymous said...

The well-off always have an advantage over the poor. Sounds bad, but this is true everywhere, not just Singapore.

Of course, I'm not saying that the DSA scheme helps.

Anonymous said...

i don't read your page that often; but was gobsmacked by your turn of phrase ...

... don't you think "little wang" is a most unbecoming moniker for your son?

Anonymous said...

You always think out of the box, Mr Wang. Trust you to comment on something that even I couldn't have seen.

Lucian said...

Thanks so much for the encouraging post on the Singapore Education System. It has changed a lot over the years, and I can vouch for the fact that most of the folks here at MOE (where I work) genuinely want to create something good for our children.

Rush said...

this isn't particularly confined to Singapore. top schools worldwide face the same problem of hyper-competitive admissions. take for example, stuyvesant high school in battery park, nyc; admissions there have also been described as exceedingly competitive.

perhaps what is unique in our case is that our (some say efficient) bureaucracy and small nation size has cascaded the effect on our children relatively more... directly as compared to other countries.

to me, the problem seems to be that children fall too easily into hyper-competition in the system we have laid out for them; I can present no solution to this and submit that indeed, our system so far has been successful by some international measures and at least this provides some comfort, albeit consolatory..?

I not a parent myself so I cannot speak from first hand experience.

Anders Brink said...

There are lots of office workers and there is but a few Ph.D students.

Is that the answer you were looking for?

Shall I quote a famous writer who said "most men live lives of quiet desperation"?

Anonymous said...

In some ways, DSA sieves out the primary school kids who are able to excel in competitive sports/the arts + academic studies. For GEP students, DSA just means they get their pick of schools well before PSLE which translates into less stress.

Every single one of my frens' kids who are successful in DSA chose the few top schools. None selected schools based on "niche programme" or sports. They do not feel the need to rush to secure a place in the lesser known schools.

And yes, these affluent parents fetched their kids for individual lessons/training with private coaches & trainers; some as young as Pri 2. Often followed by competitions and tournaments outside of the school and country. It's like they're building up a child's CV ! !

So now the kids have to juggle Eng, Math, Science, M.T. with another CCA which they must excel in. :-(

Mr Wang is right - kids from wealthier families have an advantage.

Molly Meek said...

Not only must kids be all-rounded, they must perform well all round.

Anders Brink said...

For a few students, their all-rounded excellence is amazing. For the vast majority who can't equal this excellence, their all-roundedness leads to superficiality.

In any society, there are trends. Once upon a time, people thought the world of experts. Now there's a wholesale reversal, and widespread distrust of experts.

Neither trend is good. That's why I don't think much about such "all-rounded == better" fads. Mr Wang might think such things as more choice of CCAs lead to better education, but it is not just not true.

There are poor students in Cambodia who make do without a plethora of ECAs. They come out OK.

It is fad and nothing more.

Twentyfour_sucks said...

I'm more concerned that this DSA system might fester corrupt behavior in some school principals, because they would ask for "favors" or "donations" in return for admitting the students. (check out eastcoastlife's blog and you'll see that there's already signs of such behavior)

mich said...

I would like to point out that as a former educator, I've witnessed the manipulation of the DSA initiative.

Prestigious schools filter the potential intake according to grades AND CCA performance before granting them an interview which determines their entry.

In my personal & professional opinion, the DSA Scheme is a sham.

The cold, stark truth stares at one in the face - Grades are still the top priority.

Anonymous said...

"Now, however, if the DSA backfires, it will be because the system pushes the students too hard towards academic excellence AND something else."

It's already happening as kiasu parents sign up their kids for all sorts of classes under the sun - in their bid to give their children an early headstart to a prestigious school.

yamizi said...

manufacturing sounds so mechanic?

Anonymous said...

With my experiences with DSA application while my son was in P6 last year, it is not exactly true that "if you excel in the CCA you will definatley secure a seat in a top school" - it still very much depends on the child's results for the year in P6. Most of the top schools will still want your child to take a entry test before accepting your application.

So if the child is a Bs and Cs scorer - you will still get a rejection letter immediately - unless the child is Tao Li or Feng Jian Wei.......

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, some adjustments they might have to consider and some not so good things they might have forgotten.

First of all, education in Singapore is usually not for "a better person", but for the career at the end of the 10, 12, 16 years of investment. If the DSA people are not going to have alternative careers outside "life science research, engineering suits, business politics" there is little recourse or attraction for the Singaporean parent to try the DSA route.

But of course, to some extent, the parents must do their work. Network enough to get your kids into positions outside Singapore or the very very limited places in Singapore. This is exactly what the top guys are doing anyway. What makes us think those SAF Officers are so good enough to become directors in "private companies"? Heh.

Then there is this religion part which I seriously don't like. These evangelicals who disguise their activities by registering as "non-profit organisations" or "family improvement units" giving courses so as to befriend especially kids to preach and convert them. Very unethical for a "moral" core.

Schools and MOE must be very careful about this before another eruption of anger goes up with all these over-zealous buggers tearing up our social fabric, deeming over-stepping others' family cohesion and beliefs as their god given rights.

Wang Worshipper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fuzzoo said...

If the gahmen really wants children to have a well-rounded education, I believe what needs to be done is not so much to shift some focus on non-academics, but rather to de-emphasize academics. Children naturally have non-academic interests such as drawing, cycling, ballet, etc. Problem is that they don't have time for these, and parents might tell them not to "waste time" on such pursuits and to concentrate on their studies. With the DSA and no de-emphasis on academics, kiasu parents would simply continue to push their children academically while at the same time try to get their kids to be good at selected CCAs so as to be able to enter good schools through DSA just in case their PSLE results are not good enough.

Anonymous said...

Mr wang,
I think you brought up a question here for discussion, which is, is the DSA scheme a way of moving towards less emphasis on academic grades?

I think the answer is NO, DSA does not remove the school's stress on academic grades. On the contrary, it will only ADD on to the added stress of a student who might want to try the DSA route. I think MOE has got this all wrong, they should not make any CCA a point scoring system, or introduce DSA system, or any community activity to score points only to abandon it later.

In other country, CCA is never a point scoring thing, it is for enjoyment and nurturing of interest.

To add on, I have friends who sent their kids to outside gymnastic or tennis or golf lessons in order to get into the school team, even though the kids themselves want it and have interest. The point is, they do so to get into a team. I don't think the objective is right.

Anonymous said...

"These evangelicals who disguise their activities by registering as "non-profit organisations" or "family improvement units" giving courses so as to befriend especially kids to preach and convert them. Very unethical for a "moral" core.

Agree agree agree. I despise those doing good with a religious objective of converting one to their religion, especially if they target the needy and kids who are so impressionable. Once they "tasted" the sweetness and love of "brotherhood" etc they get sucked in.

Mr Wang Says So said...

A small side point. The DSA doesn't necessarily emphasise non-academic criteria over academic criteria.

The reason is that schools are able to set their own DSA criteria, and some schools do set DSA criteria on academic ability.

Example: suppose a child is exceptionally gifted in mathematics (say, he's a maths prodigy). At age 12, he can understand university-level mathematics and he enjoys solving maths problems at that level.

However, he is very poor in Chinese language. He is also not very good in English.

Without DSA, he will not make it to one of the better schools. Why? Because Maths is only one subject at PSLE. He may do perfectly in Maths, but he will be pulled down by his languages, and maybe he might even end up in the Normal Stream.

With the DSA system, there is nevertheless flexibility for him to get him into a good school. A good school, noting his exceptional talent in maths, may admit him despite his poor language ability.

Anonymous said...

The education system with or without DSA is broken. As long as we keep churning out students (especially scholars) who only know how to regurgitate everything they have "learnt", we will forever have a broken education system.
I am currently sitting down with a classroom full of students who do extremely well in short-answer questions because... it just requires regurgitation. They don't do as well when there are "application of concept" questions and mutiple choice questions that test understanding of concepts.
This has been a constant problem year in and year out and still exists even after the former education minister's speech on "study less, learn more".
As long as we continue to measure and emphasize a person's talent by paper qualifications(a supervisory governmental position usually requires a degree with honours, etc), it will forever be a chase to achieve the best grades. With the addition of DSA, it will now be the best grades plus one... and the sad part, it almost never will be something that the child is interested in but rather, something the parent has made the child excel in at the sake of "childhood" (2 practices a day, 3 times a week, etc).
DSA DOES NOT lead to an all rounded student. It has and will lead to more "childhood-less" children with more pressures besides just scoring "A"s for academic subjects. Sadly.

misc said...

The real problem with the educational system—and the "re-education" policies in the civil service—is a classic example of killing good intentions by making them compulsory.

Everything from top down is useless and unessential—let's start with compulsory CCAs! And compulsory courses for students *and* teachers on mind maps, speed reading and all that! And how about those very informative national education lessons about "good governance". Or, how about community service, which people only really bothered with because they needed the "points" and "hours" for scholarships.

12 years of compulsory CCAs have done nothing for me. Ironically, at a time that I'm not coerced into doing a "CCA"—I just ORD'ed—I am up to my eyes in sports and activities that would have made my almas matres proud, had I bothered in school.

Contrary to what other posters here are saying, the DSA scheme is a good thing because, for once, it is a scheme that recognises the fact that you can't force anything down the student's throat. But really the logical thing to do is to cut out the requirement for compulsory CCAs altogether.

Anonymous said...

"With the DSA system, there is nevertheless flexibility for him to get him into a good school. A good school, noting his exceptional talent in maths, may admit him despite his poor language ability"

Question: What next? What for?
If after admission, he is subject again to the standard curriculum, is there a point to his admission?

There are some schools - the Sports School, NUSHS, perhaps upcoming SOTA, that actually develop niches, but those are 3 schools in the sea of nearly 200. Clearly, catered only to the prodigious.

Only the best get to really do what they want.

Unless you say, that the point is that of a second chance - using the special talent, he buys another chance to work on areas he is weak in, and gets to go to a school, being "good", has some better technique at working on his weak points.

Why that pupil then? Why not others?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Schools are allowed to set their own DSA criteria. Some will want to focus on particular areas.

For example, some may be interested in creating a much more challenging maths programme, therefore for the DSA, they might focus on finding students who are exceptionally strong in maths (never mind if they're no good in English or Chinese).

Also I understand that the "standard curriculum" you refer to has been steadily becoming less and less standard. For example, you might have noticed that the GCE O-level results have just been released, and yet there's no mention of Raffles Institution or Raffles Girls School producing any top students. Why? Because RI and RGS students no longer take the GCE O-levels.

I understand that nowadays there is also more autonomy for schools to offer non-traditional subjects for the O-levels. For example, I hear that Victoria School, you can offer Physical Education as an O-level subject.

Thus it does make sense that Victoria School, if it were on DSA, might use as its DSA criteria physical fitness or sporting prowess.

Anonymous said...

You guys got it all wrong - the purpose of DSA is not for any of the reasons you guys have stated. Straight from Tharman's mouth in one of his interviews to the Chinese press and I paraphrase:

"It is important for our gifted students to mix around with students of less intellectual capability so that when they go out to work (in the civil service), they are used to interacting with people which are less intellectual than them. The way to do this is to have DSA, the purpose of which is to blur the cut-off line, so that it is no longer a narrow precise cut-off line of an exact PSLE score, 2XX, such that everyone in RI would have scored above that score and the students there mix ard only with those above 2XX score. Instead, with DSA, it is now a broad imprecise cut-off line from PSLE score 2XX to 2YY, such that those above 2YY will definitely get in, but those between 2XX and 2YY may also get a chance to get in. In this way, gifted students at RI etc gets to interact with those that are slightly less intellectually capable than them..."

That's the purpose of DSA. The rest are just political hog-wash to make it more palatable. Summary:

DSA = blur the admission cut-off-line = the bottom-most student at top schools are no longer cut off at a single score, but a range of scores, thus allowing top students to mix with those from a broad range of intellect thus supposedly making them able to perform better when they are elite scholars in the admin service.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Anon 10:44 pm -

There is no more Gifted Programme in secondary schools. Tharman discontinued the programme.

10:44 said...

Yes, Wang, I am aware that **theorectically speaking**, there is no more gifted programme in sec school. I had used the phrase "gifted students" informally to mean "bright/talented students", not the strict legal-like way of writing to refer to those in the "gifted programme".

Having said that however, you may be interested to know that MOE's webpage says that those who got into the gifted programme in primary school will be taught in the same class in IP secondary school away from other students, even though (on paper, theorectically) there is no more gifted programme in sec sch. Their class size is also different from the rest of their non-gifted school mates.

So, don't be too sure that there is no gifted programme **in practice** in sec school? :)


In the SBGE (school-based gifted education programme in secondary school), will my child be in a class with other GEP pupils? What is the average class size?

In the IP’s SBGE classes, GEP pupils are usually grouped together in a class of about 25 to 30 pupils. Usually, the classes will include a small number of IP pupils and scholars, who were not from the primary GEP. These pupils would have been assessed to be able to benefit from the differentiated teaching and learning, and add to the diversity of the class.

Fargoal said...

I would agree with the questions raised on why we need all-rounded students in the first place. Of course, if a student can excel in everything, then by all means, go ahead. But I fail to see the substantive value accrued to students who may not have the interest or inclination. At the same time, the majority of students can probably benefit from exposure to a wide variety of subjects and fields. There is a fine balance to be struck here.

Anonymous said...

I understand that GEP boys are NOT grouped together in a particular class in RI. This is in practice for the last 2 years. RI takes in bulk of GEP boys each year.

DSA is a win-win situation for both parties. Under DSA school takes in talented pupil & the kid is NOT stressed during PSLE.

DSA is also in practice during Sec3(for IP schools) & JC1 intakes...

Anonymous said...

I heard from internal sources that 29 boys out of one class was asked to leave the school at the end of Sec 1 cause they could not keep up with the standard of the school and not doing well in their studies. I am quite sure most of them are admitted throught DSA.

So even a child get a place in a top school, the child has to still maintain the standard of the school.

so it still boils down to academics here..........

Anonymous said...

Just a question. Why did you choose to put a pic of angmoh children while talking about schools and students in Singapore?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Because ... I could not find a nice colourful picture of Singaporean kids doing CCA.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who teaches in a top school told me of a boy who got in because of his talent in a particular sport. But the boy poor is not coping well because academically he is simply not of the same calibre as the rest. So who does the DSA benefit? The school more so than the student?

Anonymous said...

I agree with mich - "The cold, stark truth stares at one in the face - Grades are still the top priority."

We are talking about Singapore here, where all that matters is grades and the paper qualifications. As much as we are trying very hard to move away from focusing on a person's grades and paper qualifications, at the end of the day, Singapore is so not like other countries whereby you can find a comfortable livelihood solely on playing in a band in some club, or painting or dancing ballet (i.e. following one's passion!).

When applying for a job, which employer cares about what you do for passion? Let's be real. A successful job application depends on how well you have done throughout your school years and what qualifications you have under your belt. Take this as an example - A teacher who is a graduate is paid much much more than one who has say, only a diploma, regardless of who can teach better. I've seen with my own eyes how some such teachers with so-called degrees, go on teaching despite half the class not listening and chatting among themselves. They simply can't handle basic classroom management & every teacher knows that that is key for any teaching AND learning to take place in the first place.

So my point is, in Singapore, only paper qualifications matter. So DSA and whatnot, is futile. I mean, look at our local athletes - how far can they go if they were to depend on their sports (aka passion)? Those who succeed either have papers to back them up or rich parents who can afford to send them overseas to polish their talents. The not so bright ones...no news.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry but having a P1 kid come back with a stack of forms is amazing...i'm guessing your son is in a school like nanyang pri or rosyth to have them start at 7!

then again, children who go to these schools prob started their CCA training even before they went in, so perhaps 7 is not too early to start..

about the DSA debate, there are too many sides to consider...being a former "elite school" teacher, there definitely is differentiation between DSA and non DSA students, but only for the first year. after that, they sink or swim on their own. i had an upper secondary class with 5 or 6 DSA students and it was obvious that they really were short-changed. they won golds and gained glory for the school, but in return we weren't doing enough to make sure they were equipped to keep up with their classmates.

for DSA, i think most parents would choose the top schools for their children, but that really isn't the wisest move...esp if the child is roped in to win medals primarily.

our system may be trying, but it's still far from being perfect...if anything, this frenzy of programmes being rolled out without much thought is making it worse...


Anonymous said...

Please do not underestimate the power of paper qualifications. We add other modes of SUBJECTIVE assessments but take the written exams away and we will end up like one of the many chaotic countries because they do not respect the sacrosanct of examinations.

Not toilet paper though from some cheap universities from across the causeway or some unknown foreign universities.

How to ascertain its worth? Look first at the candidates' 'O' or/and 'A' levels results. The consistency.

Setting exam papers is a delicate skill. People often think of the testing of mere recall questions in an examination. They are oblivious to the fact that a powerful exam paper embodies application as well as the unraveling of concepts, theories, etc. Administering the exam professionally also plays a very important part as well. The hallmark of a good examination is its validity & reliability.

Taking away exams (written exams) would be paradise for the teachers and students. There would hardly be any accountability for the highly paid teachers and EVERY child would then not want to give school a miss. Where's the competition & pressure of life?

Don't forget examinations have created the present day Far East. The evidence is for all to see from China, Japan, Taiwan to S Korea. Ancient China pioneered exams vide the imperial examinations.

The superior legal team from this little red dot trashed Malaysia to bring home Pedra Branca. MM a scholar turned this fishing village into an international metropolis. Changi Airport, PSA, SMRT, the SAF etc., are what they are today because of the BRAINS behind them. Our brainy & scholastic cabinet. Need I name more?

Really, the challenge for now and the future is in the discerning chaff from gem. The substance from speech. Not easy I say for any multi-racial society with deep-rooted primordial instincts.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, written exams examined and marked without fear or favour is the best way to assess the potential and intellect of a candidate.

Of course, the exams must be valid & reliable and skewed in order thinking skills according to the competencies being tested.

The most fearsome thing facing teachers and students alike are the written exams i.e. PSLE, 'O' or 'A' for primary level, secondary level and JC level respectively. Pupils have to demonstrate their understanding & abilities on paper whilst teachers are accountable for the measured learning that has or has not taken place in the classroom for the period.

Without the results or outcome of an exam, people can't be normed or ranked and many things can't be done eg selection for scholarships.

In fact the more subjectivity we build into the system, chances are standards over time will be compromised. Can we afford that given that Singapore competes on our human resource?

Take instance, where teachers mark their own pupils' scripts. Leniency and inflation of marks can't be discounted considering the fact that teachers' performance bonus is at stake. What about the halo effect? Then the so-called primodial effect where the examiners in say an oral exam could be more lenient towards their own kind. With thousands of candidates passing thru' the gate who would really bother abt such biasness; checks & balances, random at best. The system is purely mechanical only to compute whatever entries lodged.

I'm therefore for the PSLE where outside marking is carried out. However, not to disadvantage others, the T-score for the mother tongues must continue to be enforced since more than one language under the so-called MT is examined.

Since the 'O' & 'A' levels are examined in the UK no one is likely to be disadvataged. But where every mark counts in the subject grade then absolute care must be taken like grading the oral component when its score is added into the written subject paper. We may run the risk of being too lenient or strict when examining the oral exam, considering the mood of the examiners, the reputation of the school (halo effect), the racial input (regardless if the 2-man examiners is racially mixed), etc.

Finally, the outcome for an all-rounded assessment is to criterion-reference subjective testing and reflect as such (fair, given the different skills involved) eg driving test, rather than lump the scores to adulterate the cognitive element in the pen & paper exams.

Anonymous said...

The main function of the PSLE is to distribute children into Secondary schools and academic streams according to (academic) merit. Hence the normalised result scores rather than scores that reflect any objective level of achievement.

DSA is a new and rather messy allocation mechanism that allows schools some discretion in choosing students. It is still merit-based but applies a broader definition of merit. This broader definition was never meant to exclude academic considerations.

The new exercise has generated tons and tons of feedback. I think most people agree that it is a change in the correct direction but have varying opinions on how it should be improved, or abuse prevented.

Children from riches families will have a number of advantages over children from poorer families. No education system in the world can possibly eliminate this and I'm pretty sure the DSA system is not an attempt to do so.

Schools try to provide what parents want. But many parents want different things. New opportunities cherished by one parent could be seen as elitist by other parents who can't afford it. Should a school only facilitate access to opportunities that it can afford to heavily subsidize heavily?

The system pushes student, that is true. But who makes up the system? Are so-called pressure-cooker schools unpopular and being rejected by parents?

Parents want the best for the children. The bar for "best" is continuously being raised and redefined. Should we blame the schools for giving (the majority of) parents what they want?

SammiCheng said...

I'm so interested to know. What is this course that has "one of the objectives of the course is to help students succeed with the DSA process."?

Oh, and if you want photos of children doing CCA...I think I have many lah.