Dental Surgery Assistants

Published Date: 08 November 2016 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms K Thanaletchimi, Nominated Member of Parliament


To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) (a) whether the Ministry will review the entry criteria for dental surgery assistants who are keen to switch to a nursing career but do not meet the minimum Grade Point Average requirement; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider a bridging programme for such dental surgery assistants so that they can pursue a diploma in nursing.


1. I am encouraged by the drive of Dental Surgery Assistants (DSAs) to continually upgrade themselves, including upgrading and switching to a nursing career. From an interest and aptitude point of view, an enthused DSA is more likely to be committed to a nursing or healthcare related career.

2. However, from an educational point of view, we have to recognise that the job scope and skill sets required of the DSAs and nurses are quite different. And that is why we currently do not provide module exemptions and advance standing.

3. Hence, the realistic pathway for a DSA to take on a nursing career, is to go through National ITE Certificate (Nitec) programme in nursing, which will prepare them to be Enrolled Nurses. After some years of experience, they can go through a diploma course in nursing, which will prepare students to become Registered Nurses.

4. They may also apply for admission into the ITE Skills Certificate (ISC) programmes in Healthcare to become Healthcare or Clinic Assistants. Both pathways today require N-Level results.

5. If the learner cannot meet the academic entry criteria for the courses, there must be alternate yardsticks, such as good job performance or achievements in other courses, for them to be enrolled. Such open accessibility is a key principle of adult training and lifelong learning. We should not hold poor academic results at the young age against someone for their whole life.

6. So Ms Thanaletchmi has raised an important and broader question about lifelong learning. Under SkillsFuture, we do not just provide more opportunities for lifelong learning, but also enhance accessibility to upgrading pathways. We will continue to work with our post-secondary education institutions to find meaningful ways to recognise an individual’s skills and experience beyond academic qualifications, for enrolment into their adult learning programs.

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