Parents: did you know that 52% of O-Level holders chose the polytechnic route in 2020? And that almost half of them could qualify for a junior college?
If your teen is sitting for the O-Levels, and you are still holding on to the “JC is best” mentality, you could be doing your teen a disservice. Why, you might ask?
Well, this will not be a concern if your teen is on track to an O-Level raw score of six points for six subjects, as every door will be open to him or her. But let’s say your teen scores an A2 for all six subjects — that’s a raw score of 12. Or throw in a B3 for a subject or two, and you’ll have a raw score of 14 or more.
Objectively speaking, these are not poor scores. Yet, in our Singapore context, a score of 15 points for six subjects would leave one with only two JCs to choose from (based on 2022 cut-off points) — Jurong Pioneer JC (Arts stream) and Yishun Innova JC (Arts and Science streams).
Is it fair to limit your teen’s choices this way, when there is a whole spread of options at the polytechnics that your teen can consider? What’s more, the entry requirements for polytechnics are slightly more forgiving, as they only take into account five subjects — as opposed to six subjects for JCs.
How Many Poly Students Go To University?
Anecdotally, we still hear of parents who won’t check out the polytechnic websites or attend their Open House events with their teens, perhaps because of perceptions that they themselves grew up with — the number one fear being that polytechnic students will have a much harder time getting into the local universities.
Let’s look at the facts.
Statistics have shown that70 percent of junior college students manage to secure places in our local universities. Are you certain that your teen will be in that 70 percent? If not, your teen will either have to pursue a degree privately or abroad, or consider the option of getting a diploma in one of our polytechnics — a decision that he or she could’ve made after the O-Levels.
As for students from the polytechnics heading to universities, the first thing you’ll need to know is that there is no quota for polytechnic graduates when it comes to local university places. In fact, one in three students admitted to a local university is a polytechnic student, and this comprises about 30 percent of the local polytechnic cohort.
Although this may seem to pale in comparison to JC figures, it’s also because some polytechnic students opt to study abroad, while others prefer to build up their work experience before pursuing further studies. When this latter group is ready for a degree, they’ll have an edge over their younger peers, as they’ll have a more mature mindset, and be equipped with soft skills that one can’t pick up in school. If they have been prudent with money, they may even be able to finance their studies, freeing up funds that parents can use for their own needs!
Polytechnic Grads Who Have Gone On to Top Universities
The sky’s the limit for some polytechnic graduates, who have looked beyond our shores to qualify for MIT, Harvard, Columbia University, and London’s Imperial College — just to name a few.
One such young person is Rayden Chia, who scored seven As at the O-Levels and opted to study information security at Nanyang Polytechnic. In a media interview several years ago, he had this to say:
“I came from a background where almost everyone went to junior college… But I wanted a… unique experience and to get industry exposure.”
Upon graduation with a 4.0 GPA, Chia applied to seven American universities and was accepted by four, including MIT, Harvard, and Carnegie Mellon.
“I hope [this] will serve as an inspiration for more poly students to try this route. Don’t think that just because you don’t have a JC background, that’s not something you can do,” he said.
Likewise, there have been other stellar polytechnic graduates who have gone on to prestigious universities around the world, and you can read some of their stories here. Of course, these students are the exception rather than the norm, but it drives home the message that it’s really up to the individual teen to shape his or her path — and that a polytechnic education is an asset, not a liability.
Will a Polytechnic Education Suit Your Teen?
In order to answer this, you will have to explore what our local polytechnics have to offer. Here are some advantages of a polytechnic education:
A wide range of courses to choose from, catering to specific interests
More emphasis on project work and presentations
An environment where students are treated like adults
However, we’re also aware that researching polytechnic options can be overwhelming, and that’s why it’s good to start early.
Begin by looking at each polytechnic’s course clusters, such as Business & Accountancy, Engineering, or Infocomm Technology. Your teen may already hold preferences for certain clusters, or you may have a few ideas. Within each cluster, you can see the courses that are offered, and what the compulsory and elective modules are. If module descriptions are available, do read them carefully.
Can’t find entry scores for the courses that your teen is interested in? These scores are also listed in the national Joint Admissions Exercise booklet, and you can download the latest copy from the Ministry of Education website.
Below, we’ve put together some links for your convenience, so that you can begin browsing right away.