With coding a skill that is highly sought after, and with more kids getting interested with coding from a very young age, here’s our all-in-one DSA guide just for you

Many parents have been asking us about our Direct School Admission (DSA) P300 Portfolio Preparation Programme, so we thought that we’d share some pointers for you on whether your child should DSA (Coding) and how to prepare him/her for it.

For those of you who are not so familiar with what DSA is all about, it is a programme that enables students to gain direct entry to certain secondary schools based on their talent in sports, CCAs and specific academic areas.

And the question remains: Should my child DSA (Coding) into the school of their choice? 

There are many factors to consider before reaching an answer to this question, and here’s a list of the most important pointers (we’ve interviewed our experienced DSA educators) that will help guide you in making an informed decision on what is best for your child.

Is Your Child Passionate about Coding?

Image of students in class

Before deciding to do DSA (Coding), it is crucial to sit down and have a talk with your child to better understand his/her passion and enthusiasm for coding.

Does he/she have a high interest and is always highly motivated to work on this/her own individual projects? Especially in between coding classes? Do they constantly create and share new programs, apps on their own?

According to our experienced DSA educators, successful DSA students have similar traits in them: they are independent learners with a lot of drive and a curious mind!

In fact, we have spectacular primary school students who have been enthusiastic about coding since young and are self-taught in certain topics, making them more advanced than students their age. Such passionate students also go a step further and work on their own projects right after attending coding classes with us. This is an important step that will further accelerate their understanding and learning, by choice.

Some of our young Unstoppable Coders are: 

Photo of Aarhan Saluja (DSA to SJI)

Aarhan Saluja
12 years old
DSA to St. Joseph’s Institution

Having had his first touch with coding in Primary 3, Aarhan joined Coding Lab in 2019. His passion for coding grew over the years and with active participation in his Robotics CCA and coding classes, he was able to build a substantial portfolio! With many great projects to aid him in our DSA Programme, he successfully entered St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI)!

Photo of Jake Ian Tan (DSA to NUS High)

Jake Ian Tan
13 years old
DSA to NUS High

A boy who has always been passionate about technology, Jake started learning how to code back in 2016 when he was just 8 years old. Showing great potential in Scratch, he was invited to join the Gifted Coders class. We’re delighted to see him grow as a coder over the years and now start his exciting journey in NUS High!

What is The School they want to DSA into?

Learning more about the school your child wants to enter is important. This is because some schools have different requirements for students who want to do DSA (Coding). You can check out what are the schools that accept DSA (Coding) at MOE’s SchoolFinder website or refer to Coding Lab’s list right here.

List of DSA Schools (Image)
Source: MOE
Learn more about the latest DSA updates here.

The DSA Timeline

Image of DSA Timeline
Source: MOE

The selection process for DSA (Coding) typically involves assessments to determine whether or not students are fit for the programme.

Different schools have different expectations for DSA (Coding). Some focus on advanced level programming, others insist on a well crafted portfolio that shows strong community impact, while others emphasise on being able to program with specific gadgets. Regardless, it is important to do proper research to find the school that would fit your child’s strengths. You can also speak to our DSA educators who will be happy to share their insights on DSA (Coding) with you.

In addition to a good portfolio, schools value your child’s achievements – more so if they are under the category your child is trying to enter the school with! A good way to rack up your child’s achievements (and also build their portfolio!) is through entering Coding Lab’s competitions like Young Coders Global Hackathon (YCGH) or International Coding Showcase (ICS). 😉

With Coding Lab’s competitions, our students have been able to showcase their coding talents. Our bright-eyed student Kieran Ho who successfully entered NUS High won first place (Python and Electives) at Coding Lab’s ICS 2020 (JP-SG)! He was also the awardee of Most Promising Young Coder at the YCGH 2020. With Kieran’s many talents and achievements with Coding Lab, it’s no wonder he successfully got into NUS High! 

*Important: Many schools require students to commit to a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) affiliated to the type of DSA they entered with. E.g. Students will have to join the Infocomm or Robotics Club. Be very sure this is what suits your child best, should he/she attain a place via DSA (Coding).

Image of Jun Ray receiving his 1st Position Award

Our student Ang Jun Ray emerged as champion in the HCI Infocomm Challenge 2019. We are proud to see him grow as a young coder over the years as he completes each and every course of our learning roadmap. A hardworking and enthusiastic young coder, Jun Ray was even offered multiple DSAs at Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution! 

Image of Aahan and Leah on stage to receive their award (Ziv: Absent)

Our three talented students won 1st Prize at the IMDA Code:Xtreme Apps (CXA) 2019 Hackathon! Organised annually by IMDA to challenge minds and inspire innovative solutions for current issues, Aahan, Leah and Ziv worked hard to come up with innovative digital solutions for the hackathon theme “Digital Transformation for a Better World”. 

Learn more about our students’ achievements here! 🤩

Does Your Child Have a Good Support System in their Coding Journey?

A parent’s support is like no other. In order for your child to flourish in the DSA (Coding) journey, your invaluable support is crucial! With it, your child will be further motivated to do and achieve so much more. 

Image of Educator Evan (DSA blogpost)

It is important to take note that your budding coder will be doing something in addition to the required number of academic subjects, so he/she will be busy trying to juggle them all at once. Having regular check-ins with them to talk and be more understanding about their situation will make them feel supported and cared for. 

Giving words of encouragement and useful tips for your child to balance both academics and coding projects would also give them that extra boost to do their very best! ✊

Check out Be Your Child’s Cheerleader for more tips on how to cheer your child on for school.
Check out Useful Resources for your child to excel. 

Need Help? Our DSA Coaching Programme can assist!

Parents, know that the DSA journey can be a very daunting one, even more so for those wanting to do DSA (Coding)! Where can you get help in order to ensure that your child is well taken care of in this journey?

Header image for DSA Portfolio blog

Coding Lab’s DSA Coaching Programme is a 1-1 programme that would mould your child well for the selection process. Students in late Primary 5 to early Primary 6 will have several consultation sessions (recommended number of 3) to build up their portfolio, with each session lasting for 2 hours. As the DSA Submission typically takes place in May every year, Coding Lab’s DSA Coaching will occur from January to April.

To be better prepared for our DSA Coaching, students are recommended to complete our Ages 10-12 Roadmap.

Your child can start as early as Primary 3 (going on to Primary 4) / Primary 4 in order to finish the necessary courses and attain a basic level of competency! With sufficient knowledge from these courses, a solid and unique portfolio can be built during the DSA consultation sessions. 

In late Primary 5 to early Primary 6, several 1-1 DSA consultation sessions will be conducted to build up their portfolio. A minimum of 3 sessions is recommended, with each session lasting for 2 hours. In order to maximise the DSA training sessions, your child is expected to work on their own in between sessions based on the direction from the DSA supervisor assigned to them. 

Our P300 programme consists of:

  • Initial 1-on-1 Consultation
    Your child will be paired up with one of our dedicated specialists to better understand your child’s needs for DSA. What are their goals? What do they hope to achieve? A better understanding of your child’s wants and needs will help form a better DSA journey!

  • Shortlisting of Target Schools
    A list of target schools will be chosen based on your child’s interests and goals.

  • Customised Achievement Plan
    With an end goal in mind, our educators will help craft a plan with your child to take small but sure steps towards becoming a well-prepared DSA student.

  • Portfolio Development
    Our dedicated educators will work with your child to select or build good projects that showcase their strength and understanding in programming. Depending on the school they wish to apply for, their portfolio will be crafted closely to match the school’s requirements. 

    Your child will also acquire advanced problem-solving skills in 3 categories namely Micro:bit, Python and App Development and obtain practical skills by creating his/her own apps and projects. This will allow your child’s portfolio to stand out among the rest.

  • Interview Preparation
    Students will also be prepped with interview tips that will give them that extra edge compared to other candidates!

“I always look forward to meeting students who have a passion for coding and I find great joy in helping them bring their programming skills to the next level. At such a young age, they have already done so many projects to put in their portfolio. It’s great to see them learning life-long skills that will prepare them for their future!“
– DSA Tutor Edmund Teow

Image of Edmund and students (DSA blogpost)
Tutor Edmund with his students!

With the help of our trusty educators, our students will be able to build awesome portfolios that show how capable they are in their coding skills! Check out what our student Aarhan has to say about his DSA journey with us!

Photo of Aarhan Saluja (DSA to SJI)
Aarhan Saluja (DSA to SJI)

“The DSA prep classes focused not only on the knowledge of codes, but also presentation skills and how we can apply our knowledge in making the world a better place. My ideas were constantly discussed in the sessions which my tutor elicited from me without spoon feeding. She was very encouraging and helped me boost my confidence and creativity to a whole new level.”
– Aarhan Saluja, DSA (Innovation), SJI, 2022

We hope that these pointers have been useful in helping you make an informed decision on whether or not your child should embark on the DSA (Coding) journey. You can learn more about Coding Lab’s Coaching Programme to see if it works for your child.

Learn more about the latest MOE DSA updates here.

(Written by Zulaikha)

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Want the kids to learn? – Keep them engaged

The other day, I was playing with my kids and they were trying to learn some new words. We had just watched “Room on the broom” the weekend before, and we had hours of fun replicating the play as a family. Through this play, they learnt the concepts of gravity: “Down!” cried the Witch; counting (how many persons are on the broom now?); as well as delayed gratification (the characters combine only at the end to slay the dragon).

That is why I believe that all of us are always trying to make learning a fun and enjoyable activity with kids. Whilst this may not always be possible, the times that we have been able to achieve it forge many of our fondest memories with our kids.

Hence this blog post below, substantiated by research publications, which may shed some insights as to why learning in an enjoyable way can produce greater learning outcomes.


Intuitively, from our own personal experience, we know that being engaged during learning is important for good learning outcomes (i.e. to understand, remember and be able to apply the learnings). Many research papers support this intuitive view [1][2].

How do we then, keep our kids engaged during learning? Gathered from research and my own experience, the following are 3 tips:

1. Use relevant fantasy context to make learning fun [3]

For many years, great teachers have sought to interest and involve their students by embedding instructional materials into appealing fantasy contexts [4]. It is a common conviction that such techniques not only make education more enjoyable but also enhance students’ learning – that children learn best, most effectively and most lastingly, when they are intrinsically motivated to learn. This study from Stanford University [3] demonstrated that increased learning occur when instructional materials are made more intrinsically motivating through fantasy embellishments.

For example, bring your child on a mental adventure to the treasure island. Start with the planning of ration and supplies (which provides the opportunity to learn calendars, multiplication, division and problem solving). Then chart the course with a map and a compass (and here will be a great opportunity to learn angles, speed, distance and time). And finally, end off with finding the buried treasure and sharing the pot of goal (where your child can then learn about money, fractions and percentage).

Another example would be to turn your child into a mini baking chef to teach him fractions and volume (while weighing and preparing the ingredients), time (while timing the bake duration), and angles (while cutting up the round cake).

In the world of fantasy, there is endless possibilities.

2. Embark on project-based learning [5]

[5] Using project-based learning, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating ideas/findings to others. The key to a good project is that it has to be novel (new) to the child, sufficiently challenging and has a closure so that an artifact (e.g. game, app, or physical product) is created.

For example, to learn Law of Motion (Physics), we can embark on a project to build a water rocket.

3. Gamify it! [6]

Games have the mystical power to hold our kids captives. The urge to keep playing is irresistible, especially when the exam is just right round the corner. It can be quite a bane to many parents. Many of us would hope to be able make learning as fun as gaming. Is that possible? This research [6] explored the key game attributes that make games intrinsically motivating:

  1. Fantasy (this is similar to our first point)
  2. Representation – Opposite from fantasy, this is to provide a close reproduction of the real world
  3. Challenge – It has to be the right level of challenge. Too easy or too difficult leads to boredom or frustration respectively (this may seem obvious, but executing it can be tricky)
  4. Assessment and feedback – Have immediate feedback for the child on whether the action taken was positive or negative
  5. Control – Children’s ability to influence elements of their learning environment (e.g. the pace of learning, type of feedback and how they navigate the content) [7]

Now that we know the key attributes, it is time to let our creativity run wild. Want to encourage your child to work on her assessment book? Why not set up an achievement ladder for your child’s chosen soft toy where each assessment completed will move the soft toy up by one notch, until the soft toy reaches its favorite food?

Bonus Tip: Edufy it!

An analogous approach to gamify would be to “edufy” existing games (i.e. modify existing games to include educational elements). This word doesn’t exist yet but it was thought of while we were working on our coding curriculum. Many games have an underlying Mathematical and/or Science foundation in-built in their game play. Putting in some efforts in gaining a deeper understanding of the game will often reveal these hidden educational treasures.

For example, when playing the classic boardgame Risk, calculate the odds of winning – this will teach probability. In fact, most card games have a probability component in its game play.

Angry birds provides us with the opportunity to learn about projectile physics while Lego can be used to teach Mathematics to young children.

Share with us your experience and examples

Do you have other good ideas and examples? Do share with us through the comments box below.

[1] R.M. Carini, G.D. Kuh, S.P. Kliein, Student Engagement and Student Learning: Testing the Linkkages. Research in Higher Education, Vol. 47, No. 1, Feb 2006
[2] G.D. Kuh, Ty M. Cruce, R. Shoup, J. Kinzie, Unmasking the Effects of Student Engagement on First-Year College Grades and Persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, Volume 79, Number 5, September/October 2008, pp. 540-563
[3] LE Parker, MR Lepper, Stanford University, Effects of fantasy contexts on children’s learning and motivation: making learning more fun. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 62(4), Apr 1992, 625-633
[4] Chabay, Ruth W. “Self-perception and social-perception processes in tutoring: Subtle social control strategies of expert tutors.” Self-inference processes: The Ontario symposium. Vol. 6. Psychology Press, 2013.
[5] Blumenfeld, Phyllis C., et al. “Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning.” Educational psychologist 26.3-4 (1991): 369-398.
[6] Wilson, Katherine A., et al. “Relationships between game attributes and learning outcomes review and research proposals.” Simulation & Gaming 40.2 (2009): 217-266.
[7] Harbeck, Julia D., and Thomas M. Sherman. “Seven Principles for Designing Developmentally Appropriate Web Sites for Young Children.” Educational Technology 39.4 (1999): 39-44.