New polytechnic entry scheme for working adults starts on Monday

More weight given to job experience for those applying for full-time studies

With the change, the polytechnics will take into account the job experience of working adults applying for full-time courses, even if they do not meet the cut-off in terms of academic points.
With the change, the polytechnics will take into account the job experience of working adults applying for full-time courses, even if they do not meet the cut-off in terms of academic points.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

Adults can now apply to polytechnics for full-time studies under a new scheme that gives more weight to their work experience, with the application period for admissions next year starting today and ending on Friday.

Previously, mature students were admitted for full-time studies based largely on academic results, unlike admissions for part-time courses that give credit for work experience.

With the change, the polytechnics will take into account the job experience of working adults, even if they do not meet the cut-off in terms of academic points.

The five polytechnics now admit about 400 working adults into their full-time diploma programmes each year. They make up a small percentage of overall numbers - this year, for instance, about 24,000 students enrolled in full-time diploma courses at the five polytechnics.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the intake size for mature students is not fixed and would depend on the size and quality of the applicant pool each year. Places are set aside for working adults so that the admission chances of students from secondary schools and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will not be hurt.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who announced the change earlier this year, said academic grades attained years earlier "do not fully reflect the current eligibility of applicants".

Even if their previous academic grades fail to get them in, working adults can show that they have the specified skill sets for their chosen courses through supplementary assessments designed and administered by the polytechnics.


For example, working adults applying to Ngee Ann Polytechnic's infocomm and digital technologies courses may be assessed on logic and computational thinking, as well as general coding competencies.

When he announced the scheme, Mr Ong had said: "What this means is there is no rush for those who are interested in further studies." He encouraged working adults to gain relevant experience, adding that they can go back to the polytechnics later to deepen their skills on a part-time or full-time basis.

Working adults generally need at least two years of work experience before applying, and should submit employment records and employer recommendations.

The admission changes apply only to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

MOE had also announced another change for working adults - from academic year 2020, working adults can apply to polytechnics via the Early Admissions Exercise as well, which so far is only for students enrolled in schools.

The aptitude-based admissions exercise allows students to apply for and receive conditional offers for admission to polytechnics prior to receiving their final grades.

The deputy principal and registrar of Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Mr Mah Wee Beng, said about 3 to 4 per cent of the places in full-time courses at Ngee Ann are taken up by mature students. Among the courses popular with mature students are nursing and engineering. Most of these students are ITE upgraders.

Mr Mah said Ngee Ann is happy to have mature students, who add diversity and have work experience that "provides context to the learning experience".

Ms Carol Tan, 25, an administrator, hopes to enrol as a full-time student in the nursing diploma programme next year.

She said: "My O-level results were not so good, but through my work experience I have gained more knowledge and skills. I hope to be able to show that I am now ready to study nursing."

Q & A

Q I have only 18 months' work experience. Do I qualify for the new scheme?

A Two years is generally considered to be sufficient duration for someone with the necessary exposure to meaningfully acquire and accumulate new skills and knowledge. While individuals with less than two years of work experience can apply, priority will be given to applicants with two or more years of work experience.

Q Will the fees for mature students studying full-time be subsidised?

A Students who had previously received government subsidies for a full-time diploma or any degree at the polytechnics, arts institutions or autonomous universities are not eligible for government subsidies for a full-time diploma programme at the polytechnics.

Those who need financial aid for their studies can approach the respective tertiary institutions for advice. Singapore citizens enrolling in polytechnics next year will have to pay $2,900 - $100 more than last year. Permanent residents will pay $5,800 - $200 more than last year.

Q How will mature students be assessed for admission?

A The polytechnics will use interviews and other forms of assessment to ascertain the competencies and skills acquired by working adults during their work, on top of their academic results. Grades may not be the best indication of a working adult's suitability, especially if they had been obtained some time ago.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'New poly entry scheme for working adults starts today'. Print Edition | Subscribe