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15 January 2023

To DSA or not to DSA?

For most Singaporean parents, PSLE and Secondary school selection is easily the most significant milestone in their child’s education journey. With schools opening up more applicant spaces for different DSA talent areas and the overhaul in PSLE grading system in 2021, we see an increase in the number of parents who are interested to consider preparing their children for DSA application. Some of the common questions we get are:

  • What are the schools that take in students via Robotics / Coding DSA?
  • What is the selection process for DSA applicants? (Jump)
  • My child is currently with the school’s robotics CCA, how do I prepare him/her for DSA application? (Jump)
  • My child has no experience with Robotics / Coding, how do I prepare him/her for DSA application? (Jump)

Important Details to Note

All secondary schools will be allowed to admit up to 20% of their Secondary One intake for the four-year O-Level track under DSA from 2018 (Source).

Specialised Independent Schools (viz. NUS High School, School of the Arts, School of Science and Technology) have full discretion in admissions, and take in 100% of their students through the DSA. Schools that offer the Integrated Programme (IP) have full discretion when admitting students to the IP, although the actual proportion admitted through the DSA varies from school to school.

Application for DSA is done online through MOE’s DSA-Sec portal, typically in May. For updated information on the dates and timeline, visit MOE DSA-Sec website.

Important Issues to Consider

Does your child have a passion in the DSA talent area that he/she is applying for?

While we understand parents’ concern in trying their best to give their children better chances of applying to a Secondary school of choice, it may not be productive if a child is not really passionate about the talent area. While it may be true that interests can be nurtured later: what is more important is to get into the choice Secondary school first, do consider that it is a requirement for successful DSA students to join the respective school CCA to train and represent their Secondary school in competitions for the next 4-6 years.

Most of us working adults will likely have first-hand experience of working in a job that we don’t really like. It is the same for students who are stuck in a CCA that they are not interested in.

Does your child have a talent in the DSA talent area that he/she is applying for?

Developing a skill takes time, regardless of the talent area. For choice schools, there may be hundreds of applicants applying for a single talent area. Many of the applicants would have been training in their specialised field for several years before applying for DSA. While other private training centres may promise a DSA preparation programme for Robotics and Coding for fresh students in a few months, a more comfortable and realistic timeline is at least 2 years for a student to learn the necessary skillset and either take part in competitions or develop their portfolios.

Will your child be able to thrive academically in the DSA school?

Most Secondary schools will place their DSA students in a few “DSA classes”. These are usually the classes that are weakest academically given that DSA students have a much lower PSLE admission cutoff compared to the general school population. Aside from the unspoken label of being the weakest academically, there is also the pressure and struggle to perform well in their DSA CCA. It is not uncommon for students to underperform after making through DSA selection, and even drop out of the 6 year IP programme.

With all that is said, just focusing on preparing well for the PSLE exam and applying for a school that is able to develop your child’s potential and self-esteem may in some cases be the loving and logical choice for a stressed-out PSLE parent.

Deep Dive: Robotics and Coding DSA Preparation

If you are certain that applying for DSA-Sec through Robotics and Coding talent area is for your child, here is how we can help your child.

Step 1: Shortlist and Identify the schools that your child is interested to apply for

If you haven’t, check out our handy list of Robotics and Coding DSA schools that we have put together. You may click on the individual schools to check out their Sec 1 DSA admissions webpage and to find out more about their requirements.

Most schools will have a virtual/onsite open house event every year (typically in May) for interested parents and students to attend. This is the perfect opportunity to find out more about the Secondary school and their DSA entry requirements.

Step 2: Enrol in the appropriate courses

Different schools have different DSA requirements, while some require students to have a track record of winning national level competition events, others select students based on a hands-on test to assess a student’s level of proficiency. Typically our roadmap for DSA preparation takes the following format:


For schools that admit students based on Robotics Competition experience, we will suggest that they go through our Robotics Certificate Programme which will take approximately 3-6 months to complete, following which they will be eligible to take part in Robotics Competitions with us.

For schools that admit students based on Coding / Innovation portfolio, we will suggest that they go through our Inventor Certificate Programme which will take approximately 2-5 months to complete, following which they will be eligible to join our CATALYST programme where we will mentor students to develop their own projects as part of their portfolio.

Step 3: Document learning and achievements

Throughout their journey with us, we will also strongly suggest that students collate their certificates and photos as a documentation of their learning with us and at home. This will help students to recall the things that they have learnt and help them be better prepared for interviews with the schools. Students who go through the CATALYST programme will be required to document their learning on their personal websites.

National Robotics Competition (NRC) 2021 – Championship Award & Best Robot Performance

CATALYST Project Mentoring

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the selection process for DSA applicants?

Different schools have different entry requirements and selection process, and the intake may vary from year to year. Most schools will implement an interview round with the CCA teacher and also some form of hands-on proficiency test. We will recommend attending the school’s Open House event to know specifically their requirement and process.

My child has no experience with Robotics / Coding, how do I prepare him/her for DSA application?

Do factor at least 2 years to prepare for their DSA application, a good time to start will be Primary 4. You may check out our guide above on the DSA preparation process!

My child is currently with the school’s robotics CCA, how do I prepare him/her for DSA application?

Some schools may have a limit on the number of students that they can select to be on the school’s competition team.

If your child is already with the school’s robotics CCA competition team, we will suggest to stick with the school’s training programme. If they would like to explore other robotics/coding platforms, we can suggest that they join us for our Inventor Certificate Programme to learn about Arduino, electronics circuitry, and C programming.

If your child is currently part of the robotics CCA but not selected for the competition team, they may join us for our Robotics Certificate Programme. We can put them through a placement test to assess their current skill level before recommending a level for them to start with.

Inventor Certificate Programme (Arduino Microcontroller)

Robotics Certificate Programme (LEGO® Education SPIKE Prime)

Learn Robotics & Coding with Nullspace!

Nullspace offers a variety of robotics & coding classes for kids between ages 6 to 16. Established in 2008, we are the leading pioneer of tech education in Singapore. Trusted and recognised by MOE Singapore, Nullspace Robotics is the appointed vendor for the GEP Computer Enrichment Programme (CEP). With a team of highly experienced and dedicated instructors, we boast one of the smallest class sizes with an average instructor-to-student ratio of 1:3 – promising for the highest quality of education your children deserve.

Explore our Robotics ProgrammesExplore our Coding ProgrammesContact Us (Whatsapp)

Nullspace Robotics (Rochester Mall)

35 Rochester Drive, #03-07
Singapore 138639 (Rochester Mall)

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1 Stadium Place #01-72
Singapore 397628

Nullspace Robotics (SAFRA Tampines) - Opening May 2024

1A Tampines Street 92, #02-03
Singapore 528882

Quality Education Your Child Deserves

Nullspace is awarded with the Accredited Educational Experience Trustmark - a recognition of the quality and efficacy of our Robotics enrichment and Coding enrichment programmes.

Established in 2008, Nullspace is the leading pioneer of Robotics & Coding Education in Singapore. Accredited Educational Experience