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Greater flexibility in school admission system

MOE allows AS and IS to adopt wider criteria for a proportion of their students. They currently have discretion to admit students outside the Sec 1 central posting system, up to 5% and 10% of their declared capacity. This is subject to certain conditions, viz. such students must have PSLE T-scores no lower than 10 points below the normal cut-off for the school, and must show excellence in the school's defined niche areas.

MOE has also allowed Integrated Programme (IP) Schools2 and Specialised Schools full discretion on admissions from 2004. For example, National Junior College selected Sec 2 students for admission in 2004 on the basis of a General Ability Test, PSLE scores, school-based assessments, personal essays, references, CCA achievements and interviews with all short-listed students. The NUS High School for Maths and Science, which takes in students from 2005, will adopt a similarly broad approach, giving consideration to factors such as aptitude in science and maths, performance in competitions and projects, and students' portfolios.


   MOE will introduce greater flexibility to the secondary school admission system as follows:

   Enhance the autonomy of AS and IS. The level of discretionary places available to AS and IS will be doubled to 10% and 20% of their Sec 1 declared capacity respectively. AS and IS will be allowed to adopt their own criteria for admitting students to these discretionary places, so long as the schools' criteria are transparent and merit-based. For example, the schools may consider students with intellectual abilities that are not reflected in their PSLE aggregate, such as students with a special ability in mathematics or higher mother tongue, or those who have other non-academic talents that the school wishes to develop.

   As the AS and IS have experience with autonomy and already exercise flexibility in selecting deserving students for admission in specific niche areas, MOE is confident they will be able to manage the additional discretion. MOE will audit their admissions practices from time to time.

   Extend discretion on admissions to mainstream schools. We will allow for some degree of discretion in admissions for mainstream secondary schools that are able to develop strong niche programmes. Such schools will be granted 5% discretionary places to admit students to their niche programmes. Schools that wish to have this flexibility for admission will submit their niche programmes to MOE for approval.

   It is envisaged that about 15-20% of mainstream schools will find such flexibility useful and develop meaningful areas of excellence, admitting up to 3-5% of each Sec 1 cohort based on schools' own criteria.

   Admit students to discretionary places first, before the central posting exercise. We will introduce a two-stage Sec 1 admission where schools select students for their discretionary places first, before the central posting exercise. Currently, discretionary places are filled after the central posting exercise. The new two-stage Sec 1 admission system will be neater operationally. It will also mean that admission by broader, school-based criteria will not be a 'backdoor' entry to a school.


   Five of the sixteen JCs will offer Integrated Programmes (IP) by 20053 . These have full flexibility to determine admissions at JC1. The remaining non-IP JCs will be given discretion to admit 10% of their declared capacity, outside the central posting system. In general, students admitted through these discretionary places will still meet the existing threshold requirement for JC admission (viz. 'O' level L1R5 score of 20 points or better).

   The JCs will first select the 10% of students on their own school-based criteria, after which the remaining vacancies will be filled through the central posting system. Operationally, this will be similar to the proposed two-stage process for Sec 1 admission.


   MOE will phase in these changes as follows:

a.      From 2005 onwards, the current conditions on AS' and IS' discretion on admissions will be lifted (while retaining the existing 5% and 10% cap respectively).

b.      From 2006 onwards,

i.      The proportion of discretionary places for AS and IS will be increased to 10% and 20% respectively;

ii.      Discretion will be extended to other, mainstream secondary schools that are able to develop niches of excellence, for up to 5% of their Sec 1 enrolment;

iii.      Discretion will also be extended to all JCs not offering the Integrated Programme, for up to 10% of their JC1 intake; and

iv.      Sec 1 and JC1 admission will adopt a two-stage process, where students are selected for discretionary places based on school-based criteria first, before the central posting exercises.


   Enhancing the autonomy of AS and IS and providing discretion to other schools in admission will support schools' efforts to provide a holistic education to their students. This broadening of autonomy will also allow for more and different peaks of excellence in the school landscape.


1Bonus points in JC admission are also given for good CCA performance.
2From this year, the Raffles family of schools, the Hwa Chong family of schools, ACS(I) and National Junior College are offering IP. From 2005, Victoria Junior College and Temasek Junior College will also offer IP.
3JCs that offer the IP have full discretion to admit students at JC1 using their own merit-based admission criteria.


Ministry of Education Press Release 17 Mar 2004



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