Monday, July 2, 2012

Direct School Admission (DSA)

It is the season for DSA again!

During this time of the year, we often receive such enquiries from parents: "My son / daughter is going for erhu/guzheng/zhongruan DSA audition next month.  Can your instructor teach him/her a song or two to prepare her for the DSA audition?"

"Yes of course!" we would say.

But the fact is, if the kid is only starting to prepare now, it is probably too little too late.

Most parents are not quite familar with what exactly is DSA or what it entails.  It is a useful scheme where your kid can get into secondary schools or junior colleges of your choice if she has a talent that the school needs.  Imagine getting a place in a secondary school of your choice even before you take your PSLE.  How cool is that?

However, it is something that needs planning and preparation at least a year in advance if you are seriously thinking of using route to the school of your choice.

So we have here compiled some information about what you should know about using DSA to get your child into the school of your choice via Chinese Orchestra (CO).

For simplicity sake, we will take the subject here as a primary school student (male) going to secondary school.

1. What is DSA?
DSA stands for Direct School Admission.  If your son can play a Chinese music instrument well, and a secondary school is in need of his talent, he can be admitted into that secondary school even if his results do not meet the entry point requirement of the school!

2. I should just get him to study hard right?
Yes of course.  However, studying hard does not necessarily guarantee good grades.  It is always good to have a backup plan.  Besides, learning a musical instrument is always good, as it ensures and provides an all rounded development for your son.

3. Does DSA apply to all secondary schools?
Not all schools offer DSA and not all schools that offer DSA has Chinese Orchestra.  

Based on our extensive research these are the schools that has a CO / Guzheng in their school and offers DSA.  You will need to confirm with them if they are offering DSA for CO though.

- Ahmad Ibrahim Sec Sch

8. When can I apply for DSA?

Application dates vary for different schools.  You should check the website of the school, call them or even visit them.  But generally it should be in the beginning of the year.  Auditions are usually held in July / August.  For more information regarding DSA timelines, visit here:

5. How is the DSA selection process like?
First, you submit your DSA application.  Second, the HOD of CCAs in the respective school will process the DSA applications and choose the best candidates for shortlisting.  Those selected will need to go through an audition.  If you are successful, you will be offered a place in the school.

6.  Can my son apply for DSA in a couple of schools?
Yes he can.  He can be offered a place in multiple schools.

7. Who decides whether my son makes the cut?
The CO instructors/ coaches will assess and give his recommendations to the teacher after the audition.

8. My son have been offered a place in a school through DSA.  But his PSLE results are excellent and I want to enroll him in another school without CO.  Can I do that?
No.  If he has already been accepted during the DSA posting exercise, he cannot participate in the centralised sec 1 posting exercise. 

4. My son did really badly for his PSLE.  His results will probably be very far off from the cut off point of his DSA school.  Does it mean that he will definitely not be accepted?
Well, if he fails to meet the cut off point but still scores higher than the minimum required for the course, he will probably he accepted.  However, if his results are really very very bad he can be rejected at the time of posting even though he has been offered.  However, there have been exceptions for exceptional talents. 

8. My son plays the dizi very well but hates CO.  Can he quit CO after he gets into the school?
No, he is stuck with CO for another 4 years.  If he really hates it to the core, you might want to reconsider this.

9. My son plays the dizi in his school's CO and the school got gold with honors in SYF.  He should be very good right?
Well, not necessarily.  SYF gold is a collective effort.  Your son needs to be rely on his own individual skill to get through the audition.  

10. So does it mean that if he is really good, he will definitely be offered a place or if he is an average player he will definitely not be considered?
Well, it depends also on who else is together with your son for the audition.  If your son is good and someone better comes along and they only need one more dizi player, then too bad.  If your son is average and the rest who came for audition are worse, well, lucky you.

It also depends on the school.  If a school has a very strong erhu section, the entry level will be higher.  If a school traditionally gets gold / gold with honors in SYF, they would definitely be more stringent in their selection of students.

11. What else do they look for besides skills?
There is only one reason for accepting a student but there are hundreds of other reasons to reject you.  Eg. Not being prepared (did not memorize scores), poor attitude (late), being arrogant etc.  So make sure you apply the same attitude as you would in a job interview.

12. So how long before the audition should I prepare my kid for the audition?
About 12-18 months before would be ideal.

13. Ok I want to prepare my son for next year's DSA.  What should I do?
You should find him a music instructor and take individual music lessons.  If you do not know of any, please feel free to contact us. We have a group of instructors who teaches in Chinese orchestra in schools.  They would be familiar with what is expected of in an orchestra.

In addition to that, we can also share with you what we know of the CO/Guzheng ensemble in the school you are interested in, to better access his chances .

We can be reached at or 9754 3879.

Good luck!


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