Polytechnics are expecting more students to apply via the new Early Admissions Exercise (EAE), which allows them to secure places in diploma programmes through course-specific talents and interests rather than just academic grades.
A higher proportion of polytechnic places has been set aside for these students next year under the EAE, which begins taking in applications today.
Polytechnics told The Straits Times that a range of education and career guidance activities, such as talks and programmes in schools as well as seminars for parents, may have contributed to the strong interest.
The EAE, which gives polytechnics greater flexibility to choose students based on criteria other than the O-level examination results, can admit up to 12.5 per cent of the intake. It will allow students to receive a conditional offer for admission to a diploma course even before sitting the O-level exams.
Previously, polytechnics took in such students through the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise (DPA) and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise, which could admit up to 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the polytechnic intake respectively each year.
The EAE is replacing both of these exercises.
Earlier this year, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said at the Education Ministry's Committee of Supply debate that all five polytechnics, as well as three of the autonomous universities - Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University - will expand their existing aptitude-based admissions.
He also said studies have shown that among polytechnic students with similar O-level aggregate scores, those admitted "via DPA do better in their studies... and are far more likely to embark on careers in the sectors for which they were educated and trained".
Mr Ong added: "This confirms what may have been intuitive to us all along - when you are able to choose and enter a course you are interested or feel passionate about, you feel more ownership and enthusiasm, and will likely do better."
The mode of assessment under the EAE can vary and may include interviews, portfolio submissions and aptitude tests.
Polytechnics may consider achievements such as awards, roles assumed in and out of school, work attachments and involvement in relevant projects. For instance, for Temasek Polytechnic's informatics and information technology courses, the selection panel assesses applicants during interviews on their knowledge of how IT is applied in areas like healthcare.
The panel also looks at students' portfolios to gauge their interest.
At Singapore Polytechnic (SP), students applying for the music and audio technology diploma course are required to go for auditions where they will have to display musical proficiency. And applicants for SP's applied drama and psychology diploma must undergo a drama workshop.
Republic Polytechnic registrar Windersalam Shanmugasundar said: "The main theme is that students have to be able to demonstrate their zest in pursuing their interest.
"The EAE serves as an encouragement for students to discover and pursue their passion. It promotes active planning for their own life."