SINGAPORE - Republic Polytechnic (RP), which has faced criticism for mistakenly accepting 16 students and informing them of the mistake only on the first day of school, has conceded that it could have discovered the errors earlier.
In a reply to queries from The Straits Times on Wednesday (April 25), Mr Shanmugasundar W, RP's registrar, conceded that the polytechnic could have picked up discrepancies in the grades submitted by these applicants earlier.
"Going forward, RP will verify applicants' grades before making a course offer. We will adjust our processes in time for the next intake in 2019," said Mr Shanmugasundar.
But he also noted that students had admitted to making errors in their applications when they attended verification interviews at RP on April 16, the first day of school.
Giving an account of what had happened, Mr Shanmugasundar said the 16 affected students had submitted their applications in the Direct Admissions Exercise (DAE). Based on their input in the applications, they met the admission criteria and were enrolled into RP.
However, upon further checks before the start of school, RP found discrepancies between the examination/co-curricular activity (CCA) grades that the students had entered in the system and their actual grades as reflected in the scanned copies of the transcripts that they had uploaded.
The polytechnic then contacted the students to ask them to attend verification interviews, Mr Shanmugasundar added.
"During the verification interviews, the students acknowledged the errors they made in their applications. (Thus), the students do not meet the admission criteria for any of RP's courses because their net aggregate score exceeded 26 points," said Mr Shanmugasundar.
He said RP has helped the affected students apply to Institute of Technical Education (ITE) or other polytechnic courses.
As of Wednesday, 11 students have accepted their alternative placements, while the rest were waiting to be accepted into courses or have decided to retake their O levels.
But RP has drawn criticism for the incident, not least from affected students and their parents.
One of the 16 students, who wanted to be known only as Tan, said he was shocked when he found out he had not actually been accepted into RP.
"I already went for orientation, paid my enrolment fees, even bought a laptop and configured it for school," said the 17-year-old.
Tan had obtained a C6 for his science subject but was notified that his grade had been registered as a C5 instead. His actual grade meant he missed the cut-off of 26 points by one point.
He noted that students had to manually key in their results for admission under the DAE exercise, unlike the overall Ministry of Education Joint Admissions Exercise, where students' results are already in the system.
He said he could not remember if he had keyed in his grade correctly.
However, Tan said RP should nonetheless have verified the grades earlier, noting there were at least two months between when students submitted their results and when RP told them of the mistake.
Similarly, Muhammad Irfan, 18, had obtained a B3 for his CCA grade, but was told on his first day at RP that it had appeared as an A1 on his application instead. His B3 grade meant he missed the cut-off for RP by two points.
He said he could not remember if he had keyed in his results correctly.
"They should check, not just rely on students and not do it at the last minute," he added.
His mother, Ms Ashida Sazali Ng, 46, an assistant manager of operations at an investment firm, is furious. RP's last-minute call means that her son, who began at ITE College West on April 18, is nearly three weeks behind as ITE courses started on April 2.
To make matters worse, he could not gain readmission to the mechanical engineering course at ITE he had previously rejected in order to enrol in RP, because the course is now full. He is now enrolled in the rapid transit technology course.
Ms Ashida said: "Can you imagine looking forward to a new school, having met new friends in orientation, then being kicked out of the school?
"He was crying and kept saying that he has disappointed the whole family. It really breaks my heart."
RP apologised earlier for the incident.
Other local institutes of education, such as Nanyang Technological University, the National University of Singapore and other universities, also have components in their applications where students have to manually key in their grades.
The Straits Times understands that as part of their verification processes, in addition to having students provide supporting documents, the schools obtain transcripts from students' previous schools directly or from relevant institutions, such as the International Baccalaureate Organisation for IB students, to minimise errors.