After the O levels: What are the options?

SINGAPORE - More than 30,000 students took the O-level examinations last year and received their results on Jan 12, 2015. Several options lie before many of these young hopefuls: polytechnics, junior colleges, Institutes of Technical Education and private colleges. 

This is a big step and making the right choice to suit their educational needs can be a daunting task.

We explore these options in a series of articles.


Polytechnics


Polys step up cyber security courses to keep up with growing demand

On the back of a recent spate of cyber security breaches around the world - including the hacking of Hollywood studio Sony Pictures' systems - organisations from government agencies to financial institutions have been looking to beef up their information technology (IT) security against malicious attacks. And polytechnics in Singapore are leading the charge in grooming IT security professionals, offering new cyber security diploma courses and revamping old ones.

Two of the four new diploma courses at polytechnics this year will be in cyber security. In April, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) will introduce a diploma programme in information security and forensics, while Republic Polytechnic (RP) will launch a diploma programme in infocomm security management.

Read more here.

Niche courses at polytechnics a draw for students

More school leavers - including those who did well enough to enter junior colleges - are joining the five polytechnics in Singapore, continuing a trend that started more than five years ago.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show the intake of the five polytechnics went up from 25,700 in 2010 to 26,879 in 2013, the latest year for which the complete figure is available.

More significantly, of those who entered the polytechnics after the O levels, 40 per cent had qualified for junior college.

Read more here.

Why some students gladly traded a place in Junior College for Polytechnic

Ms Yeo Xing Jie, 21, attended St Andrew's Junior College and completed her A levels before switching to Temasek Polytechnic to study aviation management.

Although she started two years later than her secondary school peers, she is glad she is finally pursuing a course she is interested in.

Read more here.

Polytechnics offer courses to meet growing demand for data scientists

Companies are increasingly collecting data in greater volumes to study patterns in consumer behaviour. Even the German football team, en route to winning last year's World Cup, analysed massive amounts of data on its own players and rival players, to gain an edge.

To meet the rising demand for data scientists, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) is introducing a diploma course in big data management and governance, the only such full-time course at a poly here. It will also offer a part-time specialist diploma course in big data management. Last October, Nanyang Polytechnic introduced a part-time specialist diploma in business and big data analytics.

Read more here.


Junior Colleges


Junior College schemes stretch students' potential

Not many 17-year-olds would enjoy the daunting prospect of making business presentations to entrepreneurs in a foreign land.

But the experience was valuable for Pioneer Junior College (PJC) student Jonathan Loh Ryu Wen, who did so during a research trip and work attachment to Suzhou, China, under the school's Sirius Scholars Programme.

He said: "The projects we had to cover during the trip gave us a chance to practise the application of the business and leadership skills we learnt.

Read more here.

Junior colleges offer broader options, quicker route to degree

Despite the growing popularity of polytechnics, junior colleges have held their own.

In the last seven years till 2013, JCs have maintained a yearly intake of more than 16,000 students, data from the Ministry of Education showed.

The figure has hovered from about 16,100 to 16,400 each year, which makes up about 27 per cent to 28 per cent of the size of each cohort back at Primary 1.

Read more here.


More features


In their own words: Junior Colleges versus Polytechnics

Students have their say on whether Junior Colleges or Polytechnics are more suitable for them.

Read more here.

Ask Sandra: Is poly or JC best for me?

The Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie answers a student's question on choosing the junior college or polytechnic route.

Read more here.

Twins set to split up for first time as life goals diverge

Fraternal twins Johanna and Joanne Foo, both 17, attended the same schools for the past 10 years, and they were even classmates for all but four years.

Johanna, who is older by two minutes, said of their time at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary) and its affiliated secondary school of the same name: "We did everything together. Even when we weren't in the same class, we still ate together during recess."

But after the release of the O-level examination results, the sisters will probably follow different education paths.

Read more here.

Fewer private candidates, but more doing better

The number of people here taking the O-level examinations as private candidates has fallen to a new record low, probably because they have more alternative options to further their studies now.

Last year, only 2,133 private candidates sat the exam, down from 2,615 in 2013, which was already the smallest number in the last 10 years.

The figure was consistently above 3,000 in the years before that, hitting 3,932 in 2011.

Read more here.


Private colleges


Taking the private school route to a degree or diploma

Student Michelle Leong, 18, left junior college (JC) after seven months as she felt it was not suitable for her.

"It was like secondary school, but with a heavier workload and even more pressure. It was suffocating at some points," she said.

Instead of a polytechnic course, however, she decided on a communication degree offered by the University at Buffalo (UB) at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM).

Read more here.

Going from normal stream to law school

About a decade ago, Mr Jason Chua did not care much about how he fared in school.

The 24-year-old, who was from the Normal (Technical) stream in St Andrew's Secondary School, found no motivation to work hard.

It was only after his mother lost her secretarial job, the year after he took his N levels, that he was determined to change.

Read more here.


Institute of Technical Education


ITE rolling out more courses at higher levels

Rail infrastructure enhancements - including the expansion of the rail network and major upgrades to existing lines - have signalled the need for technicians to maintain the train system here.

To meet the growing demand, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will offer a two-year Higher Nitec course in rapid transit engineering this April. It is one of three new Higher Nitec courses ITE is introducing this year, which can be taken by those who have a related Nitec certificate or who scored at least E8 in three relevant O-level subjects.

"Due to the expansion of the rapid transit system, there is a strong demand for more technical officers to maintain it," said course manager Wong Sheow Leong. "Currently, there is a shortage of skilled individuals."

Read more here.