Some 3,680 secondary school students have been offered a conditional place in a polytechnic even before they take the O levels next month.
The offers were made at the end of the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE), introduced this year to allow students to secure places in diploma programmes using course- specific talents and interests and not just academic grades.
Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who revealed the figures on Facebook yesterday morning, said he was encouraged by the response. "We have seen a large number of applications, offers and acceptances to the EAE," he wrote.
He said the polytechnics received applications from around 8,000 students, which means more than one in four eligible candidates applied.
Of these applicants, 46 per cent were given conditional offers.
He said most were offered places in courses such as early childhood education, mass communication, nursing, visual communications and media design, and sports and exercise sciences, where interest and aptitude are important for the mastery of the skills required.
Just over 500 of the places offered through the exercise were for the early childhood education course, while 130 places were for nursing.
Mr Ong also said that of those who received an offer, 72 per cent were offered their first-choice courses and more than 92 per cent have accepted their offers.
They now need to score no more than 26 points for their O levels and meet other minimum subject requirements to be enrolled.
Said Mr Ong: "It is heartening to know that our students and parents are supportive of this move."
He also received several positive e-mails about the new scheme.
For instance, he said, one parent said her son is very passionate about nursing, but could not apply for the relevant course in the past because of his academic grades.
Mr Ong was happy to hear that he was offered a place in nursing via EAE because of his strong desire to be in the healthcare sector.
The new scheme replaced the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise, which could admit up to 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the polytechnic intake respectively each year. Polytechnics can now take in up to 12.5 per cent of their total intakes through the EAE.
Mr Ong had said earlier that Ministry of Education studies show that among polytechnic students with similar O-level aggregate scores, those admitted via the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise did better in their studies and and were far more likely to embark on careers in the sectors for which they were educated and trained.
Polytechnics use various methods, including interviews and evaluating portfolios, to select students.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti said lecturers doing the selection focused on students' aptitudes and interests, instead of their grades.
"The whole intent is to give priority admission to students who have demonstrated strong potential for a specific course as we believe that they will be able to do well in the course if they have the right aptitude and interest," he said.
Students who had received offers welcomed the scheme.
Bukit Merah Secondary school student Nurul Ayuni Rosli, 16, who was offered a place to study nursing at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said she had wanted to be a nurse since she was in kindergarten.
"I know when you are a child, you think of becoming a doctor, nurse or teacher. And then you change your mind several times.
"But in my case, that dream of becoming a nurse remained. So when I went to secondary school, the first CCA (co-curricular activity) I signed up for was the St John Ambulance Brigade," said the Secondary 4 Express stream student.
"I am glad that there is such a scheme where you can be selected based on your interest. I am very interested in nursing, because I really want to help people," she added.