Deciding on areas of interest for JC or polytechnic courses
Choosing a course at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
For guidance, please read the latest Joint Admissions Exercise information booklet by the Ministry of Education. (Get the 2023 booklet here.) This booklet is for all O-Level students, and covers information on junior colleges, the Millennia Institute, polytechnics, and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Below, we address the most common questions that teens and parents may have about post-secondary education choices. If you are interested in post-secondary Open House events, scroll to the bottom of this article for a list.
To ensure that you get the most accurate and updated information, please check directly with your schools of interest. We wish you and your teen all the best in this new season!
“How does the O-Level scoring system work?”
For Singapore-based students, the O-Levels are graded on a scale of A to E, with A being the highest grade and E being the lowest. Apart from a letter grade, students will also receive a numerical grade for each subject:
A1 and A2
B3 and B4
C5 and C6
D7 (below a passing grade)
E8 (below a passing grade)
9 (below a passing grade)
Only Grades A1 to E8 will be recorded on the O-Level certificate. For details, refer to the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board website.
By adding up the numerical grades, your teen will have an aggregate or ‘raw’ score to use for entry to post-secondary institutions. For teens interested in attending a junior college (a two-year course leading to the A-Levels) or an International Baccalaureate school, they will need to total up the scores for six subjects to get an aggregate score.
In contrast, teens interested in the Millennia Institute (a three-year course leading to the A-Levels), a polytechnic diploma, or an ITE qualification will only need to total up the numerical scores for five subjects, in order to qualify for entry.
Get a full explanation on O-Level score computations here, or consult your teen’s school for assistance!
“What JC courses are there?”
When applying for a junior college, students will need to choose between the science stream or the arts stream.
The science stream includes subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, and it is suitable for students who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and medicine. The arts stream, on the other hand, includes subjects such as literature, history, and economics, and it is geared towards students who want to pursue careers in the humanities, social sciences, and some creative fields.
Teens and parents can get an overview of the A-Level curriculum here.
Whichever stream they choose, A-Level students will be required to take a ‘contrasting’ subject. This refers to any subject that is significantly different in content from the other subjects that a student is studying. For example, if a student is studying biology, chemistry, and physics as their A-Level subjects, then a contrasting subject might be literature, history, or a language. The purpose of a contrasting subject is to provide balance and variety in the student’s course of study, and to demonstrate to universities and other educational institutions that the student has a well-rounded education. Based on the most popular subject combinations for both streams, most junior college students will take mathematics and economics, no matter which stream they pick.
Ultimately, the decision to study in the science or arts stream should depend on your teen’s strengths and interests. Some students may find that the science stream aligns better with their natural abilities, while others may feel that the arts stream is a better fit. During your discussions, do keep in mind that one stream should not be viewed as more prestigious than the other. Instead, focus on choosing the stream that will help your teen to achieve his or her goals.
Once a student has been accepted into the science or arts stream at a junior college, it will be time to select a subject combination. In Singapore, A-Level students in junior colleges take subjects at three levels — Higher 1 (H1), Higher 2 (H2), and Higher 3 (H3).
If these terms are new to you, here’s what you need to know:
H1 subjects are similar to H2 subjects in depth, but in terms of the breadth of content, H1 only covers half of what is taught in H2.
H3 subjects build on H2 subjects in knowledge and skills. They are offered to students who are academically strong, and prepared to manage a tougher workload. To read a H3 subject, students are required to take the corresponding subject at the H2 level as well.
But don’t worry too much about this. For students who have been accepted into a junior college, the school will typically hold a seminar for students and parents, to walk them through the process of choosing a subject combination.
If your teen has a passion for art, music, languages, or humanities subjects, you can also read up about pre-university elective programmes, to see if there is something suitable for your teen.
“What poly course should I take?”
We understand that it can be daunting to research polytechnic courses, as there are so many options available! To help your teen with the selection process, let them know that polytechnic courses are grouped into the following clusters:
Information & Digital Technology
Media & Design
Encourage your teen to research these course clusters while there is still time. Even if your teen already has his or her mind set on a junior college, it’s still worthwhile to shortlist one or two polytechnic course clusters that are of interest, in case the O-Level results don’t turn out as expected.
As for how to find out more about the course clusters, your teen can use search tools to ask basic questions like “What is Applied Sciences?” as well as deeper questions such as “How are Applied Sciences and Engineering different?”
A quick answer to the latter question is that applied sciences is a broad field that encompasses engineering and many other disciplines, while engineering is a specific field that focuses on the design and construction of systems, machines, and structures. Engineers typically work on specific projects, using their technical expertise to design and build systems, products, and processes. Applied scientists, on the other hand, may work on a wider range of projects and may be involved in research, development, and testing of new ideas and technologies. They may also work in a variety of settings, including academia, industry, and the government.
“What is the ITE, and what courses are there?”
In Singapore, the Institute of Technical Education or ITE offers vocational training, where students can progress from an ITE certificate to a diploma, and eventually to a university if that is part of their goal. (Click here for a chart on academic pathways for ITE students.)
Vocational education focuses on teaching practical skills and knowledge related to a specific trade or industry, and such education often includes hands-on training and internships. For instance, if your teen enrols in a Hospitality Operations course, he or she will be equipped with service skills that are sought after by the hospitality and tourism industry, to prepare for job roles such as Front Office Operations, Housekeeping, Hospitality Data Analytics, and so on.
Similar to polytechnics, ITE courses fall under several main clusters:
Business & Services
Design & Media
Electronics & Infocomm Technology
Your teen can refer directly to the list of two-year ITE courses and research the course titles that seem interesting, by reading the course descriptions on the ITE website.
“What are the post-secondary open house events in 2023?”
Is your teen interested in attending open house events for junior colleges, polytechnics, and more? You can encourage your teen to attend such events with friends, or make time to accompany your teen, if he or she prefers having a parent along.
Below is a list of post-secondary open house events in January 2023. If your school of interest does not have an event listed, please contact them directly.