Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Polytechnic Foundation Programme: Fast-track poly scheme gives students a boost

First batch of Polytechnic Foundation Programme graduates delivers encouraging results, says MOE
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 2 May 2017

The pioneer batch of students who got into polytechnics through a fast-track scheme has set the bar high for its juniors.

Some have gone on to top their cohorts, while others have won awards for outstanding performance in various fields.

They are the pioneers of the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP), which is offered by all five polytechnics to prepare Secondary 4 Normal (Academic) students for direct entry into diploma courses.

The year-long programme offers a practice-oriented curriculum with modules taught by polytechnic lecturers and allows students to skip Secondary 5 and the O levels.

The first batch of some 800 PFP students, who were placed on the programme four years ago, will graduate at various polytechnic ceremonies this month.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) told The Straits Times that the first PFP batch has performed well. It added that some students will be receiving institution-level awards and prizes in recognition of their holistic achievements.

While it would not give figures on how the cohort performed, the ministry cited "encouraging results from our pioneer PFP batch".

MOE said "students enjoy similar education and development opportunities in the polytechnics", regardless of their admissions pathway.

Among the many PFP graduates who have done well is Republic Polytechnic's Clive Chia Chun. The 21-year-old, who studied electrical and electronic engineering, topped his cohort with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA). He will receive the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Mathematics and Science given to the top technology or computer science graduates.

It was not all rosy, though. At the end of Secondary 2, he had to transfer from the Express to the Normal (Academic) stream at Chung Cheng High School (Yishun).

"I failed my exams and I hated going to school," he said.

In fact, he got through the N levels five years ago "by memorising everything". He later applied for the PFP, allowing him to skip Secondary 5.

Mr Chia, who hopes to enter a university after his national service, said the programme was a fresh start for him. "I was determined to do my best and not be a failure like I was in secondary school," he added.

PFP students are given provisional places in diploma courses. They will secure their places if they pass all their PFP modules.

At Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 132 students from the first PFP cohort will graduate. Nine of them are gold or silver medallists of their course. These medals are awarded to outstanding graduates of each course.

At Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), 163 students from the first PFP batch will graduate this year, with 15 getting top awards. Nearly half (44 per cent) of this pioneer cohort have made it to the director's list - by excelling academically in the semester at least once during their three-year diploma programme.

The polytechnic said PFP students generally do very well when they move on to their first year as they take domain-specific foundation modules designed to help them adapt to their diploma studies.

"Many have outperformed their O-level peers," it added.

NYP animation student Rebecca Lou, 20, who opted for the PFP despite acing her N levels, felt the alternative route would allow her to pursue her passion earlier. "I love animations. They were a huge part of my childhood," she said.

The former Anderson Secondary student graduates this month with a GPA of 3.96, and will receive the Lee Hsien Loong Award for outstanding all-round achievement. She has received at least five job offers from companies such as The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia and Infinite Studios.

She said the PFP allowed her to adjust to the polytechnic system ahead of her peers. "It has definitely given me more than just a head start. It worked as a more relevant and exciting pathway to my dream course," she said. "If I came in by any other way, I would have turned out a little different."

Course made him more confident, articulate
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 2 May 2017

He had opted to do an engineering diploma, but was told during a medical screening that the course might be too strenuous for him.

Mr Mohamed Najulah, who was born with brittle bone disease and uses a wheelchair, decided to take up a business information technology diploma instead.

The former Queensway Secondary Normal (Academic) student was keen to explore how business and information technology could be used to help others. He enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic as part of the pioneer cohort of the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP).

That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The 21-year-old is now one of the poly's top students and will graduate with a grade point average of 3.89 out of 4.0.

Mr Najulah, who will be awarded the Chua Chor Teck gold medal, said he could not have come so far without the PFP, which allows students to skip the O levels to do a one-year programme that prepares them for a diploma course.

"It allowed me to transition seamlessly into my course," he said. "Without this alternative pathway, I would have to take my O levels, and I may not do as well to meet the entry requirements."

The programme helped nurture his speaking, writing and presentation skills. "Going through the PFP allowed me to be more confident, outspoken and articulate during presentations and group work."

The aspiring software developer will pursue an information systems degree at the Singapore Management University in August.

"Application development is not restricted by physical capabilities, and provides the freedom and ability to convert what I think mentally into reality," he said.

Mr Najulah described his poly experience as a roller-coaster ride, filled with ups and downs. But he will always remember the help offered by his peers.

"As I am a wheelchair user, I would never forget the moments when my friends and classmates assisted me to get to my lessons and lectures," he said. "It might be a simple act, but it meant a lot to me."

'Stepping stone' to pursue passion for IT
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 2 May 2017

Prior to taking his N-level examinations five years ago, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) student Eyo Wei Chin was set on the Institute of Technical Education.

The then Secondary 4 Normal (Academic) student, who was barely passing his subjects, reckoned that if he made it to Secondary 5, it would still be tough for him to scrape through the O levels.

But the former Pasir Ris Secondary student did well at the N levels and decided to go for TP's cyber and digital security diploma course via the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) instead.

The year-long PFP allows students to skip Secondary 5 and prepares them for the course they are interested in.

This month, the 21-year-old will graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. The awards he will receive include the Lee Kuan Yew Award, which is given to the top technology or computer science polytechnic graduates.

Mr Eyo, who has a keen interest in information technology, said the PFP gave him the "stepping stone" to do well in school. Under the programme, he went through modules that covered research skills, project work and programming.

"It allowed me to interact with my lecturers, explore the school and make friends," he said. "I was able to better focus on my course work when I started the diploma course."

His only concern at the start was that he did not have an O-level qualification. "I wondered how universities or the industry would react," he noted. "But things have worked out well."

Mr Eyo, who will further his studies locally after his national service, said: "The PFP gave me a direct path to pursue my passion for IT, and also allowed me to meet like-minded students, who inspired me to work harder in my studies."

Top student felt 'slightly inferior initially'
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 2 May 2017

When she stepped foot into polytechnic four years ago, Ms Rachel Tan did not know what to expect.

After all, the former West Spring Secondary Normal (Academic) student was in the pioneer cohort of students who got in through the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP). It allows students to skip Secondary 5 and the O levels.

"When I first came in, I felt lost and worried for my future because no one seemed to have heard of the PFP," said the 20-year-old, who did a biomedical engineering diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

"There were also no seniors with similar experiences whom I could approach for guidance."

But that year-long preparatory programme allowed her to adjust to poly life, ahead of her peers who entered through the O-level route.

"I slowly started to realise that while the foundation courses were challenging, they allowed me to learn about my strengths and weaknesses," she said. "I was able to figure out aspects of engineering that I enjoy learning."

Ms Tan eventually topped her cohort, and will be graduating this month with a grade point average of 3.95 out of 4.0.

She will receive the Biomedical Engineering Society (Singapore) gold medal and prize for her performance, among other awards.

Ms Tan said she felt "slightly inferior initially" when she started her three-year diploma programme alongside students who got in through their O-level results.

But she added: "While my peers were still spending their first few weeks trying to adapt, I was able to focus on the lessons immediately."

The PFP also prepared her well with the skills needed. For instance, she recalled a lab session where students had to do soldering, and was pleased that she had learnt about the process in her foundation year.

Ms Tan, who plans to further her studies after graduation, said: "The PFP gave me the opportunity to build a stronger foundation, and assured me that I am no different from other students."

Secondary 5 studies less popular as new paths to poly open

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