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.
CAREER ADVICE FOR STUDENTS
We also help them think about what would motivate them at work - recognition, financial freedom, community service or personal freedom...
Then, we help them match their interests and values to the right courses in polytechnic.
MS IRENE CHIN, a career counsellor at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
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."