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Sunday, February 5, 2017

The DSA Game

Now that the PSLE t-score is taken away, in favour of letter grades and some degree of randomness in the selection into secondary school, parents are pushing the boundaries of DSA.

DSA is the new frontier for kiasu-ism.

Primary School Pipeline
Already, coaches in the top IP schools have started a primary school pipeline, where they train children from families willing to pay.

You can't really blame the coaches because they have pressure to deliver medals. If everyone picked from a pool of untrained talent in Sec 1, then everyone is on a level playing field. However, with the DSA scheme in place, if one top school cherrypicks primary school talent then the other top school that just sits back to see what talent comes through the door... will lose out. It is not surprising then, that responsible coaches who care about winning, start primary school pipelines that they personally train. The advantages are many...

(1) the coaches already know the temperament of the child and whether the child is motivated and easy to coach,

(2) the coaches don't have to un-train bad habits in Sec 1 because they can personally make sure that each child develops the exact habits the coaches want,

(3) and the coaches gain a lucrative stream of side income.

Yet again, money talks. Parents with the means to fund primary school sports training, give their children a good chance at DSA-ing into the top schools.

There are merits to this system.

(a) It encourages parents to invest in areas of development outside of simply literacy and numeracy. Hence, we are no longer a nation of academic zombies.

(b) It ensures that we will have a pool of talent with highly competitive skills over and above their straight distinctions when they apply to Ivy League universities and other top universities around the world. Provided they don't blindly copy American or British practices, these people bring back to Singapore  a level of sophistication and know how that will help keep Singapore competitive.

(c) As a country, we do achieve the aim of developing each cohort holistically.

There are problems too.

(i) The DSA scheme is an expensive scheme to administrate. 16,000 students applied, of which 2,800 were accepted via DSA. That is 13,200 students who went for interviews and written tests without hope of making the grade. Think of the man hours it takes to administrate this scheme. I think we should revert to the system of 2 decades ago where schools would approach the top sportsmen they wanted to offer a place. Schools would scout for talent at the interschool competitions and they pretty much know whom they want.

(ii) The academic DSA scheme is unnecessary. The PSLE already tests academic prowess. Hence, why are droves of GEP scoring in the 250s accepted into schools with cut offs above 265? IQ is only one factor of talent. There is motivation. There is work ethic. Put motivation together with work ethic and IQ, and we get students who want to do well and are able to excel. These are the kids who should make it into the top schools. Someone with brains and no drive, is not top talent. There is no longer any GEP scheme in secondary. This alone is a silent acknowledgement that by secondary school, kids with slightly lower IQ but very high drive achieve more. I think we should remove the academic DSA entirely. If we have done away with the secondary GEP, there is no need to have academic DSA into secondary school.

Approached thus, the GEP Unit, GEP schools and GEP parents would need to work harder at ensuring a good work ethic and high drive in their students. This can only be good for the development of our best and brightest. Counter intuitively, building this drive may require adults to BACK OFF. See HERE.  

This post was written from a macro (not personal) perspective. In the next post after this, I will share my personal experience on how I approached the DSA exercise twice.

This post continues HERE.

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