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

Mr Christopher Lye (above) and Ms Yeo Xing Jie completed their A levels before enrolling in polytechnic.
Mr Christopher Lye (above) and Ms Yeo Xing Jie completed their A levels before enrolling in polytechnic.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER LYE, SEAH KWANG PENG
Mr Christopher Lye (above) and Ms Yeo Xing Jie completed their A levels before enrolling in polytechnic.
Mr Christopher Lye (above) and Ms Yeo Xing Jie completed their A levels before enrolling in polytechnic.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER LYE, SEAH KWANG PENG

More than 30,000 students took the O-level examinations last year and will be receiving their results. This is the third of a five-part daily series on the results and the developments in the educational institutions that students can join after the examinations. Some thrive on hands-on learning or discover keen interest in a subject

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.

Mr Christopher Lye, 23, joked that he took the long, scenic route to polytechnic.

He completed two years of study in Catholic Junior College and sat his A levels before realising he wanted to be involved in events and project management.

After completing his national service, he enrolled in the events management diploma course at Singapore Polytechnic. Now into his third year, he has no regrets. He is enjoying his studies and maintains a near perfect grade point average. When he finishes his studies this year, he intends to work for a few years before considering university studies.

Ms Doreen Lim, 19, though, made up her mind to drop out of junior college after her first year to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. She hopes to enrol in a culinary science course this year.

Figures from the Ministry of Education (MOE) show that 400 to 500 students switch from junior college to polytechnic each year.

Most do so in the middle or the end of the first year of junior college. Several students make the switch in the second year or even after completing their A levels.

On the flip side, the numbers going the other way are small.

MOE said only 50 to 60 polytechnic students move to the junior colleges 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 that the total score for English and four other subjects not exceed 26 points.

MOE said it will continue to provide multiple pathways and "porosity" between the pathways for students to take the most suitable path to realise their potential, regardless of their starting point.

It added that education and career guidance will help to augment the support given to students to help them discover their strengths and interests.

Polytechnic officials say many students transfer after struggling with their studies in junior college. However, they note a growing number make the switch because they discover they have a talent or keen interest for a particular subject. Or they come to realise that they learn better through practical, applied learning, which the polytechnics are good at.

Several, like Ms Lim, say their parents insisted on them taking the junior college route.

Ms Lim said: "My parents, like most parents, feel that a university degree is a minimum and that the junior college route is a surer way to get into university."

More than 70 per cent of junior college students enter the local universities compared with about 20 per cent of polytechnic graduates. But with the expansion of the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University, more university places and niche degree courses have opened up for polytechnic graduates.

The transfer students say they are glad the ministry allows students to switch from polytechnic to junior college, and vice versa.

Singapore Polytechnic principal Tan Choon Shian said: "Some young people have a firmer idea of which route they want to take.

"But for some, it takes a while for them to figure out what they are good at."

Republic Polytechnic principal Yeo Li Pheow noted many of the students who transferred from junior college to polytechnic go on to do well.

"By then they have thought hard about what they want and are really motivated. Also, they are academically strong students. So, they go on to top their class."

Ms Yeo, who has maintained the highest possible grade point average of 4 in Temasek Polytechnic, said: "I struggled in junior college because it really didn't interest me. But for my poly course I always go deeper and try harder. And it's all because the subject really interests me."

sandra@sph.com.sg