Uni admissions: Poly grads' O-level grades to be dropped from 2020

Students at the Singapore Polytechnic. Polytechnic graduates applying to local universities from 2020 will not need to include their O-level results. Only their polytechnic GPA will count towards the university admissions score, except for certain co
Students at the Singapore Polytechnic. Polytechnic graduates applying to local universities from 2020 will not need to include their O-level results. Only their polytechnic GPA will count towards the university admissions score, except for certain courses with subject-specific requirements.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

From 2020, polytechnic graduates applying to Singapore's local universities will not need to include their O-level results.

Only their polytechnic grade point average (GPA) will count towards the university admissions score they use in applying to the six publicly funded universities, except for certain courses with subject-specific requirements.

The two biggest institutions, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), will drop the current 20 per cent weighting given to O-level results for polytechnic graduate applicants, in a move to recognise their latest qualification and put them on a par with their peers from junior colleges.

The other four universities already use other ways of evaluation such as the polytechnic GPA, aptitude tests and interviews.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the change will better recognise late bloomers and those who have done well in polytechnics after discovering their interest when they are older.

With the expansion of publicly funded university places, one in three students admitted to local universities was from a polytechnic this year, up from one in four in 2012.

The ministry also explained that the profile of polytechnic students today has become more diverse, with almost a quarter of them without O-level qualifications. This is up from about one in five in 2014.

This is due to the introduction of schemes such as the Polytechnic Foundation Programme, which is offered to the top Normal (Academic) students. Those on this track skip the O levels and are admitted directly to the polytechnics.

National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University will drop the current 20 per cent weighting given to O-level results for polytechnic graduate applicants.

University officials said the change in scoring is in line with the move towards a more holistic admissions process that assesses students based on their aptitude besides their academic grades.

NUS, NTU and Singapore Management University can allocate up to 15 per cent of their yearly undergraduate places for the Discretionary Admission Scheme, which considers the abilities of students beyond their academic results.

NUS president Tan Eng Chye said: "Through this scheme, quite a number of talented polytechnic graduates have gained admission into NUS, including those with good GPAs regardless of their O-level results. They have done well at NUS."

 
 
 

NTU provost Ling San said it continues to see more applicants with polytechnic diplomas who took alternative routes that did not involve sitting the O levels. "Given the diversity of students' prior backgrounds, it would be fairer to look at mainly their polytechnic results for university admission, but we will still consider their O-level results where applicable."

Students can continue to submit their O-level results as additional information to support their applications. Some courses may still require O-level scores if relevant. For example, polytechnic students who wish to apply to computer science courses at NUS need at least a B3 grade in O-level Additional Mathematics.

Current and former polytechnic students said it is fair to exclude the O-level results for diploma-holders.

NUS computer science student Rachel Tan said: "The O levels are important but they shouldn't be a determining factor in a polytechnic graduate's application to university.

"The poly diploma also tends to be more relevant to the university course," said the 21-year-old who entered Ngee Ann Polytechnic's biomedical engineering and business course through the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.

Social enterprise co-founder Nicholas Ooi, 28, who went from the Institute of Technical Education to Ngee Ann Polytechnic to NUS, said the change encourages late bloomers, or those who do not do well in their O levels but find their passion in polytechnic.

"They would have sat the O levels four to five years ago. In that time, people can improve and discover their direction in life, so it's not so fair to judge them based on their results in the past."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2018, with the headline 'Uni admissions: Poly grads' O-level grades to be dropped from 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe