Monday, 11 January 2016

JC or Poly? Make an informed choice

Key considerations include students' preferred learning styles and whether they have specific career inclinations
Published The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2016

Dear students,

Some of you will be collecting your O-level results today and an important decision awaits you about which progression pathway you should choose.

There are many options, including the junior colleges (JCs), polytechnics (polys), the Institute of Technical Education and the arts institutions.

You may wonder about the key differences between the JC and poly routes and I hope to provide you with some information to help you make an informed choice.

One key difference is the mode of learning. In JCs, there is more emphasis on understanding theoretical concepts while in polys, the emphasis is on building industry-relevant skills through applied learning.

As such, poly courses are oriented towards specific careers while JC ones tend to be more broad-based and academic.

JC students take a few core subjects and go deep into the subjects over two years; poly students take more "bite-sized" modules that build on one another over three years.

On average, a poly student takes about five to seven modules per semester, and there are two semesters in an academic year.

The assessment approach is also different. I think most of you are aware that JC students take the A-level exams at one sitting at the end of two years. In the polys, students' results for every module that they take over the three years count towards the cumulative grade point average.

So what does this all mean?

A key consideration would be your preferred learning style: Do you prefer a more academic mode of learning or a more applied, hands-on type of learning?

When you were in secondary school, did you enjoy hands-on learning activities like laboratory sessions and project work?

Another key consideration would be whether you currently have a clear passion and inclination for specific careers.

For example, you might be drawn to the caring profession and you have the disposition and passion to pursue a career in nursing. In such a case, the poly route would be a good choice.

If you have no specific career inclinations now and would like to keep your options open, you may want to consider the JC route.

If you should choose to join a poly, you need to decide on a course. The five polys offer close to 250 diploma courses in total, so you do need a strategy to pick the right one.

My advice is to start by picking the clusters of courses that you might be interested in.

There are nine main clusters: engineering, built environment, maritime studies, health sciences, applied sciences, information and digital technologies, media and design, business management, and humanities.

Try to get a sense of the broad clusters you are interested in based on your passion and strengths. Think about which subjects you are passionate about and tend to do well in. For example, if you are very strong in mathematics and physics and you like making or fixing things, you may want to look at the engineering and built environment clusters. If you have a strong flair for creative work, you may want to look at the media and design cluster.

After identifying the relevant clusters, shortlist the courses of interest within the cluster.

At this point, it is important to read up on the course curriculum and career prospects of the different courses. You can typically get this information from the polys' prospectus or from their websites.

You can also visit the polys during the Joint Admissions Exercise to speak to the course counsellors.

Another point to note is that unlike the JCs, which follow a broad curriculum framework set by the Ministry of Education, the polys have the autonomy to design their own course curricula.

Hence, even diplomas in the same broad areas may have different emphasis and coverage when offered by different polys. The key is to find a course that fits your interest and strengths.

Your choice of courses should precede your choice of polys.

Let me explain this a little more. Say you are extremely interested in aerospace engineering and decide to choose aerospace engineering at Poly A as your first choice.

The logical second and third choices would be aerospace engineering in Poly B and Poly C, respectively, so that you maximise your chances of getting into your preferred course.

For some students, their priority is to get into a particular poly and they would rather choose courses that they are less interested in, to get into their poly of choice.

This may result in sub-optimal outcomes. Go for what you are interested in and good at. In any case, I do honestly believe that all five polys offer excellent learning experiences, so getting into the course of your choice should be a priority.

I hope I have offered you some help in making this very important decision. Do take some time to ponder over it and discuss it with your parents, teachers, and education and career guidance counsellors.

It leaves me to wish you all the very best, whichever route you may choose to take.

Remember that the future is what you make of it!

With best regards,

Ms Jeanne Liew
Principal & CEO
Nanyang Polytechnic

O-Level graduates, here’s a list of our Junior Colleges (JCs) Open House dates!12 Jan• Anderson JC:...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Monday, January 11, 2016

JC v Poly: The pros and cons
This is a choice that will determine the rest of your life, or so some say. To help you decide your path, IN runs down the pros and cons of life in a junior college and polytechnic
By Nur Syahiidah Zainal, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2016


More JC students get places in local universities, with about 70 per cent of each cohort managing to secure places.

Last year, the number of polytechnic students accepted to local universities increased to 20 per cent of the polytechnic cohort, compared to 15 per cent a few years before, due to the six universities increasing the number of places on offer.

This raised the total rate of entry by polytechnic graduates and A-level school-leavers into university – called the cohort participation rate (CPR) – to 32 per cent. The Ministry of Education aims to reach the target CPR of 40 per cent by 2020.

So, no JC means no uni place? Not exactly true.


JC life is dictated by timetables: students go to school Mondays to Fridays and take CCAs – much like in secondary school.

Polytechnic life may appear less stressful, thanks to a less intensive timetable which may show more free periods or even days where there are no classes.

However, all that free time does not equal more fun. Just like in JC, free time usually goes towards completing assignments or studying for tests or exams.

Some courses, such as those specialising in communications or design, can also be assignment-intensive – which means that students are required to complete several projects at regular intervals throughout a semester for their various modules.

“Hell week” – or that dreaded week when projects for several different modules are all due at the same time – is when students pull all-nighters, sometimes even sleeping in school to work on their assignments to ensure they meet the deadlines.

Also, polytechnic students need focus and discipline to maintain their grades, as their results are calculated cumulatively over the three years. Lecturers will not chase them for missing assignments.

Students are also required to have 75 per cent attendance before they can pass a module.

So all that talk about how much easier it is for them to cut class? Forget it.


Many people have the impression that a JC student does not have a good social life – how is it possible to have any fun when an insane amount of time is spent not just on studying, but also on their CCAs?

Furthermore, the major school events on a JC students’ calendar, such as Sports Day and cross-country runs, sound completely uninspiring next to posters proclaiming the cool events happening in various polys such as jam-and-hops (dance parties) or Halloween parties.

However, the way students are allotted into classes and faculties means that it is easier for a JC student to build school ties and maintain a wide social circle.

Polytechnic students tend to gather in small groups and some courses may be so small that it provides a social circle the size of an onion ring.


One often-touted perk of being a polytechnic student is that “you can wear whatever you want”.

However, there is also a little thing called a dress code. Each polytechnic has its own, but some general rules include no provocative or revealing attire, or no attire with offensive messages.

True, most polytechnic students are raring to flaunt their individuality right at the beginning, but most will eventually end up being affected by some combination of boredom, laziness and the inevitable “but I have nothing to wear” syndrome.

Except for the die-hard clotheshorses, most will just revert to comfortable basics by the time they hit the halfway mark in their courses.

Plus, some JC uniforms can really be quite chic.

Figure-flattering A-line skirts or fun hoodies and varsity jackets? Yes, please!

A uniform may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but hey, no outfit-induced headaches in the morning and a sense of belonging to a particular school? Enjoy it while it lasts.


In general, the JC route to university is accelerated, and takes two years. The polytechnic path will take you about three years or so.

However, the longer polytechnic option ends with a diploma and better prepares you for the workforce. So if you are in a hurry to enter the job market, this may be better option. After all, with lifelong learning now a big focus, you can study part time to get more credentials later.


The JC route covers a broad range of academic subjects, allowing students to have a “taste” of different disciplines before having to make up their mind on a specialisation when they enter university.

This is a huge boon to students who are not sure about what they want to do as a career.

However, some students have their eyes firmly on an end goal and polytechnic allows them to focus only on what they need for their chosen specialisation.

Also, the sheer number of courses on offer across the five polytechnics here has always been a point of pride for both the institutions and students.

Want to learn how to concoct perfume or train elite athletes? Or learn to care for animals or stop major online security breaches?

Well, the polytechnics offer courses specialising in all these interests and more.

But that does not mean that the A-Levels subjects JC students take are inferior. By focusing on scholastic skills, students may end up better prepared for the academic rigours of university.

Besides stalwarts such as computing, and theatre studies and drama, interesting new additions, such as English language and linguistics, and China studies in English, are now available.

School posting after O-level results
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2016

Q My son will be receiving his O-level results today. Can I know how posting is done for those applying to the junior colleges and polytechnics? How many choices are students allowed? What happens if a student does not get any of his choices?

A To enter a junior college (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.

But if more high-performing students apply for a certain course, with a certain planned intake, the cut-off point is likely to be lower.

Applicants are posted to a course according to their net aggregate scores, which take into account the various bonus points for which the applicants are eligible.

Applicants with better net aggregate scores (except those applying for nursing courses at Nanyang and Ngee Ann Polytechnic) will be considered for admission first, subject to the availability of vacancies. If there are no vacancies, then the applicant will be considered for his next choice of course.

Where there are two or more applicants with the same net aggregate score vying for the last place in a course, then Singapore citizens will be given priority, followed by Singapore permanent residents, then international students.

If there is still a tie, say between two Singapore citizens, the one with the better gross aggregate score will be posted to the course first. If there is still a tie between two citizens with the same gross aggregate scores, posting to the course will be determined by a computerised ballot.

Those who apply for the nursing courses as their first choice will be given priority consideration as long as they meet the minimum entry requirement for the course, which includes a minimum D7 for English and C6 for Mathematics and another science subject.

If your son is unsuccessful in getting a place in any of his registered choices, he will be posted to an institution as follows:
- To a JC course with vacancies, if he has indicated a JC course as his first choice. This is subject to his meeting the net L1R5 aggregate of the lowest ranked students who were admitted to the JC course.
- To a Millennia Institute (MI) course with vacancies, if he had chosen an MI course as his first choice.
- To a polytechnic course with vacancies, if he had indicated a poly course as his first choice. This is subject to his meeting the minimum entry requirements for the course.
- Those who had indicated a Higher Nitec course as their first choice will be given a place in a higher Nitec course with vacancies. Again, he or she must meet the course's minimum entry requirement.
If an applicant changes his mind, he may apply for a transfer to another course or institution only after the release of the posting results.

They will be evaluated on a case- by-case basis by the institution they have approached, and a place may be granted only when compelling reasons are presented and vacancies are available.

Polys step up effort to guide O-level grads in next chapter
All five polys have set up dedicated career guidance units and are organising more activities for students, parents
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2016

The five polytechnics are pulling out all the stops to help O-level school leavers make the right decision in furthering their education.

Republic, Nanyang, Ngee Ann, Temasek and Singapore polytechnics have all set up dedicated education and career guidance units within their campuses last year and staffed them with specialists trained in career counselling.

The polytechnics have for years held talks, camps and open houses to familiarise secondary school students with what they offer. But recently, they have stepped up their activities to reach out to more students and give them in-depth guidance. In recent months, they have held talks and workshops for parents as well.

Ms Irene Chin, a career counsellor at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said students are often unsure of the post-secondary courses they want to pursue.

The Find Your Dream Course workshop that the polytechnic conducts regularly aims to help school leavers understand what motivates them and the values that are important to them.

"We have come up with an exercise, which helps students better understand themselves - if they are more people-oriented, interested in business or more into science and technology or media and design," said Ms Chin.

"We also help them think about what would motivate them at work - recognition, financial freedom, community service or personal freedom - people who like to do their own thing, their own way.

"Then, we help them match their interests and values to the right courses in polytechnic."

Ms Jeanne Liew, principal of Nanyang Polytechnic, said students often aim to get into the more competitive junior colleges or polytechnic courses because they see them as being prestigious.

"They should instead be looking for the JC or poly course that best suits their interests and aptitude."

Figures released by the Ministry of Education (MOE) last year show that 400 to 500 students switch from a junior college to a polytechnic each year. On the flip side, the numbers going the other way are small. MOE figures show only 50 to 60 polytechnic students move to a junior college each year.

To enter a junior college, a student's L1R5 score - based on O-level results for English and five relevant subjects - must not exceed 20 points. Polytechnics require the total score for English and four other subjects not to exceed 26 points.

Republic Polytechnic principal Yeo Li Pheow said it is important for students to find a polytechnic course with the right fit.

"It may take a bit of time and effort, but once they find a course they are really interested in, they excel at it," he said, adding that parents should take an active role in helping their children decide on their post-secondary path.

"Sometimes parents get upset when their children apply for a course that they think has poor job prospects.

"But if they attend the talks and workshops, they may find out that it is a hot new area with good prospects. Besides, their child may really have the aptitude for the field."

Students Samantha Yeo and Nuovo Tan, both 16, attended the career counselling workshop at Ngee Ann Polytechnic last Thursday, and said they found it useful.

Nuovo, a student at Jurong Secondary, said: "I am interested in both the JC and polytechnic route so I am exploring all options.

"But as far as poly courses go, I am leaning towards the sustainable urban design and engineering course. After attending the workshop, I realised that the course suits my interest, which is in science and technology. I hope to go on to study architecture in university."

Samantha, who attends Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary, said she was deciding between the mass communications and biomedical science courses.

After attending the workshop and talking to lecturers at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, she realised that mass communications suits her better.

"I am a people-oriented person and love interacting with people from all walks of life, so a course that would allow me to go into journalism or public relations would suit me," she said.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti said students should follow their dreams, but it is also important to "ground their dreams in reality". "It is great if they land a place in the course they want, but at the end of the day, they have to work hard at honing their skills and knowledge in the field, understand the industry and know where to seek the right opportunities."

He said the polys offer schemes including mentorship programmes and multiple internships for students to get more work experience.

"All these programmes offered by the polytechnics allow students to hone their skills, and gain a better understanding of the industry and the jobs that may suit them. Students should seize the opportunities available to them at the polytechnics."

Best O-level results since 1978
83.8% got at least five passes last year, bettering 83.3% mark of 2014 cohort
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2016

Students who sat the O levels last year have outperformed their seniors at the national exam, putting in the best showing in nearly four decades going back to 1978.

Of the students who took the exam, 83.8 per cent attained at least five passes, surpassing the 83.3 per cent mark set by the 2014 cohort, which was the first to breach the 83 per cent mark. In addition, 96.1 per cent attained at least three passes. Normal (Academic) students and private candidates also did better than in the previous year.

Associate Professor Jason Tan, an education policy expert at the National Institute of Education, said the solid showing was due to schools here doing a better job of preparing their students for the crucial national exam, which determines their eligibility for post-secondary education.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said better teaching and learning resources played a role.

"Many schools have adopted differentiated learning that caters to the different needs of students. Students these days are encouraged to think and communicate their ideas," he added. "This helps teachers understand their students better."

Dr Chan also pointed out there have been fewer students taking the O levels in recent years, with more skipping them and moving on to a higher level in the Integrated Programme. A total of 29,723 students took the O-level exam last year, compared with 30,964 students in the class of 2014. In the few years before that, over 34,000 took it.

View photos of our students receiving their O-Level examination results today at Yishun Secondary School and Chung Cheng...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Monday, January 11, 2016

As with recent years, the Education Ministry did not name the top scorers when it released the results yesterday. This did not stop schools from celebrating their top achievers. At Bowen Secondary, the top three and the three most improved students from each class got applause from their classmates.

The school also recognised those who showed resilience under difficult circumstances, such as student Nicole Wee. The 17-year-old, who had a blood viral infection weeks before the exam period in October, had to prepare for and sit the O levels from a room inside her ward at the Singapore General Hospital.

But she never felt alone as her teachers and classmates would visit with notes and practice papers. Her teachers also coached her when she needed help. Bowen Secondary principal Bernard Chew said: "We are celebrating more than the results. We want to celebrate the values and lessons they've learnt along the way."

At Chung Cheng High School (Main), the students who had received at least five distinctions were named when principal Chan Ying Yin presented the results. Among them was Jessica Glazov, 16, who received six A1s and three A2s. She said: "The teachers... would go the extra mile to help us in our studies."

In a Facebook post yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated the students. "For many of you, this marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another," he said. "Whichever path you choose, I wish you all the best as you start on your next adventure."

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