Friday, 15 January 2016

Stricter rules on Junior College transfers from 2016

By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 15 Jan 2016

Just like secondary schools, junior colleges have now been told not to accept transfer requests from students who fail to meet their minimum academic cut-off.

Previously, JCs which still had vacancies after the initial posting exercise had the discretion to take in students who appealed for a place despite not meeting the cut-off point. Some popular JCs received as many as 100 appeals a year.

But The Straits Times understands that last month, the JCs were told by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that they can consider only appeal students who have met their minimum O-level score.

Earlier this month, The Straits Times reported how a similar directive was issued to secondary schools. They were told not to accept transfer requests from pupils whose Primary School Leaving Examination scores did not meet the schools' cut-off point.

Principals and vice-principals who spoke to The Straits Times said this tightening is meant to reduce the churn of students between schools after the posting exercise.

Ms Ek Soo Ben, principal of Victoria Junior College, said this would ensure that all schools treat appeals the same way, and the system "honours academic merit and fairness".

"There is room for other types of talents and interests through the DSA," she added.

The DSA, or direct school admissions, route lets schools take in students based not just on academic ability but also other talents such as sports and the arts. The exercise takes place in May to August yearly before students sit the O levels.

The MOE told The Straits Times that as students are posted to schools based on "objective and transparent measures of academic merit", appeals "must (also) be aligned to these principles". This is to be fair to students who missed out during the initial posting phase.

A spokesman added that schools informed O-level students about this when they received their results on Monday. They have until today to submit their choices of schools for their post-O-level education. They can choose from 17 schools which offer the two-year A-level course, such as Anderson JC and Catholic JC, and another two schools which offer the International Baccalaureate programme.

Secondary school leavers can also opt for the polytechnic route.

While some have wondered if the stricter rules mean that there will be more pressure on students and pupils to chase that last point, others agree that this is a fairer system.

Darshini Balamurugan, 16, who hopes to get into Raffles Institution in this year's posting exercise, said: "It's only fair that you meet the cut-off point of a school and deserve to be there. If you miss the cut-off and still get in by appeal, it's not fair to others who could have got in but didn't appeal."

But 16-year-old Amanda Gan, who is hoping for a place at St Andrew's Junior College, said: "The rule is fair but there should be some leeway for those whose marks are very close to the cut-off."

Little change in junior college entry scores this year
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 29 Jan 2016

Despite the latest O-level results being the best in decades, there was little change in the minimum entry requirements for most junior colleges this year.

As in previous years, Raffles Institution (RI) was the toughest to get into, with cut-off scores of three and four points for its science and arts courses respectively. Hwa Chong Institution's entry score for both tracks was four points.

One school that continued its climb up the table is Nanyang JC, whose entry scores were seven and six points for its arts and science courses respectively. Seven years ago, its entry requirement for both courses was a score of 10.

The latest cut-off points for the 19 institutions were released yesterday when the Ministry of Education (MOE) notified students of the schools they were posted to for the new year.

About 27,600 students were allocated places in post-secondary institutions in the latest exercise, said an MOE spokesman. Of these, 36 per cent were posted to a JC or Millennia Institute, which offers a three-year A-level programme. This is slightly more than the 34 per cent who got into JCs last year.

This year, 56 per cent of students were posted to a polytechnic, compared with 58 per cent last year.

In both years, 8 per cent of the cohorts went to the Institute of Technical Education.

To enter a JC, a student's L1R5 score - based on O-level results for English and five relevant subjects - must not exceed 20 points.

To enter a polytechnic, a student needs a total score - based on the O-level results for English, two relevant and two best subjects - which does not exceed 26 points.

Last year's cohort of O-level students performed the best at the national exam in nearly four decades, going back to 1978. Close to 84 per cent attained five or more subject passes; before 2014, the figure had stayed below 83 per cent.

Amanda Gan, 16, secured a place in St Andrew's JC (SAJC). Its entry requirement this year was nine points, the same as last year.

"SAJC seems to be able to balance studying and having fun, such as in sports, quite well," she said. "I'm excited to go to JC but also nervous because it's a new environment."

Mid-tier junior colleges gaining popularity
By Amelia Teng and Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2016

Nestled in a corner of Serangoon, Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) has been quietly growing in popularity.

More of its graduates are making it to university, and students are attracted to its flexible curriculum, and principal and staff who listen.

In tandem, the school's entry requirements have improved steadily in the last decade, getting whittled down from 11 to six points for science stream students, and from 12 to seven points for the arts stream since 2006.

The school's cut-off score now places it among the top JCs offering the A-level programme.

Other junior colleges that have climbed up the ranks over the years include Serangoon JC (SRJC) and Meridian JC (MJC).

To enter a JC, a student's L1R5 score - based on the O-level results for English and five relevant subjects - must not exceed 20 points. The lower the score, the better the student's chances of getting a place in a JC of his choice.

The toughest schools to enter are still Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution, which require students to attain three to four points.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of private institution SIM Global Education's academic division, said of the increasingly popular JCs: "While the percentage of graduates getting university admissions is certainly a key factor, the emotional tone of a school also helps to win hearts."

NYJC principal Kwek Hiok Chuang said his staff have worked hard to build a culture of care.

"Students won't come to the principal's office, so when I see them in the canteen or studying, I talk to them and try to encourage them," said Mr Kwek, who joined the school over 10 years ago.

He encourages his vice-principals and teachers to do the same.

The JC's popularity can be seen in its application numbers - about 4,000 Secondary 4 students place it among their top three JC choices yearly. It takes in about 700 students each year.

About nine in 10 of its graduates go on to study at a local university.

MJC, which also takes in about 700 students yearly, has more than 90 per cent of them placing it among their top three choices. Over nine in 10 of its students go on to study at a local university.

Principal Lim Yan Hock noted that the improvement has spurred the staff to adapt their teaching to "changing profiles and needs of students".

For SRJC, the support from teachers is one factor that draws students. Principal Manogaran Suppiah noted: "We've never talked about the cut-off point as a (key performance indicator). Our focus has to be on the students."

He added that SRJC reviews its programmes yearly to consider students' higher aspirations and learning needs. About 85 per cent of his students placed SRJC among their top three choices. Last year, more than three in four of its graduates were offered courses in local universities.

First-year NYJC student Lim Zong Hui, 16, who scored four points at the O levels, was won over by the school after attending its open house.

The former CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School student had heard from friends and seniors about the school's close-knit family culture.

She said: "I want to find a balance between studying and co-curricular activities, and have a fun JC life."

Meanwhile, second-year JC student Goh Shu Yi chose MJC as she did not want to be in an overly competitive school environment. She scored six points for her O levels.

"The school struck me as being really vibrant when I came for its open house," said the 17-year-old.

The teachers also "care a lot", she said, adding that they arrange extra lessons for students who need help before the year-end exams.

Secondary 1 postings: Harder to switch schools
JC or Poly? Make an informed choice

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