What’s next after the O-Levels? Long gone are the days where junior colleges provided the sole entry route to universities — a “bright” future in many parents’ eyes. (According to 2015 estimates, polytechnic graduates now make up a third of the local university intake.)
Today, the Singapore education landscape is more diverse, and students have many viable options to consider. After the O-Levels, most students proceed to one of the following post-secondary education institutions:
- Junior Colleges/Centralised Institute: Students can apply for pre-university education at the junior colleges (two-year course) or centralised institute (three-year course at Millennia Institute) leading to the GCE A-Level exams. They can also opt for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and St. Joseph’s Institution.
- Polytechnics: Students interested in a more practice-oriented pathway may apply for full-time diploma courses at the polytechnics.
- Institute of Technical Education (ITE): Students may also apply to the ITE to pursue technical or vocational education. ITE graduates who wish to further their education can be considered for admission to the polytechnics, as well as ITE’s Technical Diploma programmes.
- Arts Institutions. Students interested in the creative arts at the tertiary level can enrol in programmes offered by the LASALLE College of the Arts or the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). These institutions offer a range of publicly funded degree and diploma programmes in the visual and performing arts, such as music, theatre, dance, interior design, and fashion design.
Students who wish to apply to junior colleges, Millennia Institute, polytechnics, or the ITE can do so through the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE). Refer to the Ministry of Education’s official website for the most accurate information on the various pathways.
The Decision-Making Process
Yet, with greater choice often comes confusion. How can you help your teen to decide on his or her next steps?
First, share your own education experiences with your teen. Talk about your triumphs, but don’t shy away from discussing personal challenges as well. It also helps to chat with others — current students, 20-somethings, as well as parents — to find out how different individuals decided on their academic pathways, and how these choices have shaped their career paths.
To encourage your teen, you can highlight stories of resilience in the local media, featuring those who have switched from a junior college to a polytechnic, or those who have gone through the Millennia Institute route. Last year, after much hard work, a local ITE graduate made it to the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, which had about 280 places for some 2,000 applicants.
Next, help your teen to define his or her strengths and interests. Some questions you can ask:
- What subjects did you most enjoy in secondary school, and why?
- What are you currently interested in learning more about, either through workshops, books, or videos?
- Are there any occupations that you would like to find out more about?
For students keen on taking the A-Levels, National Junior College has a guide about the various subject combinations, as well as a career diagnostic quiz that your teen can try.
For students deliberating between the International Baccalaureate and the A-Levels, look for online resources on the pros and cons of both curriculums. (Here’s an example.) Similarly, students wondering about junior college versus polytechnic life can also find articles online to shed light on this.
If your teen is curious about the diploma courses at the polytechnics, an educator tip is to identify the “course clusters” that your teen might be interested in. In polytechnics, courses are generally grouped under these interest areas: engineering, built environment, maritime studies, health sciences, applied sciences, information and digital technologies, media and design, business management, and humanities.
You can also refer to MySkillsFuture’s industry landscape guide, where students can find out how many professionals are currently employed in a local industry, what it contributes to the economy, and how the industry might be relevant in the future.
In addition, all secondary schools now have access to education and career counsellors. These counsellors are not based in the schools, but instead, they are attached to several schools on a roving arrangement. If your teen needs further advice, enquire with your teen’s secondary school to make use of this service.
Finally, make a list of open house events to visit with your teen. We’ve provided a preliminary list below for your consideration. Do check event details on the school’s website before heading down, and if the schools that you’re interested in are not listed, please contact them directly.
Here are some questions that you can ask at the open house:
- What does it take to do well in this course?
- What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in pursuing this course?
- What challenges did you face in your first year?
- What do you love most about this course?
- What internship or development programmes are there for students, and are they open to all students or just a select few?
- What is your daily schedule like?
- Are you coping well with the deadlines?
- Within the course, what are the most popular modules?
- Who are the most popular lecturers, and why?
- Are the lecturers easily available if you need support?
- What are some of the projects that you’ve worked on?
- What is the student culture like?
Post-Secondary Open House Events 2020