The first Polytechnic Foundation Programme - set up to prepare students for polytechnic entrance without having to take O levels - boasted a 99.5 per cent success rate, it was revealed this week.
Almost all the 837 students who enrolled in last year's Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) "have progressed to the first year of their respective diploma courses", the Education Ministry said.
The PFP is open to Normal (Academic) students who have done well in N-level exams and allows them to skip Secondary 5. Instead they take a year-long programme at the polytechnic of their choice - featuring compulsory modules such as English and Maths, and others selected by the polytechnic. It is designed to prepare them for direct entrance to the course they are interested in.
Almost 80 per cent of the 1,277 students offered places on this year's PFP have signed up.
While the polytechnics differ in how they assess their students, most use a combination of projects, presentations, quizzes and exams.
Nanyang Polytechnic said its foundation-year students are graded in a similar way to its diploma students. "By using an assessment system that is similar to the polytechnic system, we are preparing our students to transit more seamlessly into their polytechnic diploma courses," a spokesman said.
Singapore Polytechnic student Victoria Tan, 18, was among 191 students enrolled in its first foundation course and is now a first-year civil engineering and business student.
"It opened more doors for me than if I had remained in Secondary 5," she said. "We were not as busy as the first-year (polytechnic) students as we had more free time. I used that time to take part in about five co-curricular activities. I've learnt and grown a lot from the experience."
The programme helped fellow student Mark Sathyan, 19, to cope with the transition from secondary school to Singapore Polytechnic. "In secondary school, even if you didn't do your homework, your teachers would still be there to push you," said the mechanical engineering student. "In polytechnic, it is about self-directed learning. You definitely need more discipline. This one year in the foundation course has prepped me to switch to this thinking."
Nanyang Polytechnic student Thamir Singh, 18, said it allowed him to enter the polytechnic course of his choice "but without the stress of taking the O-level exams". He will begin pharmaceutical sciences lessons on Monday. "I've heard from people in the industry that the pharmaceutical sciences course is not an easy one," he said. "But I've spent the past year getting used to the poly lifestyle and it will help me to cope better."
Students who do not complete the foundation programme can opt to apply to the Institute of Technical Education's Higher Nitec programmes, take O-level exams as a private candidate, or approach their former secondary schools for readmission in the following year, said an Education Ministry spokesperson.
She added that a foundation student's transfer to a different course "will only be assessed on a case-by-case basis if there are extenuating circumstances".