JC v Poly: The pros and cons

PHOTOS: BERITA HARIAN FILE, REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC

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

UNI DREAMS

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.

OH STRESS!

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.

SCHOOL TIES

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.

LECTURE RUNWAY

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.

TIME TO SPARE?

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.

WHAT TO STUDY

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.