This is the most common question we get from both parents and students who just completed their O-levels examination. We have been around for 20 years now, and every year we have been helping those who cannot decide on the path to take after completing the O-levels. It is often not as simple as deciding between two or three years of further education.
For some students who are able to decide on their own, the process is rather simple and naive, their decision for the next level of education is based on where their best buddies are going. Nothing wrong with that, except that your future career may be determined by your friends. For some, their choice of school is dictated by their parents. And the choice by the parents are influenced by their own experience and opinions of others as well. The problem arises when both parents and child think differently and have different ideas on whether the A-level route is suitable for them or the diploma route is better. So how do we address this difficult question … to head for the Poly or JC?
Our view is this. If you are aiming for university, then choose the JC route. Since at least 70 percent of JC students make it to the local universities, then you will have a better chance if you go to a Junior College after your O-levels. It will take you two years in a JC instead of three in the Polytechnic. Just bear in mind the qualification for entry into a JC is based on L1 (English or Higher Mother Tongue) and R5 (5 relevant subjects). Subjects offered in the A-levels are quite similar to the subjects offered at O-levels. There are Physics, Chemistry, Maths etc. But do expect a advanced (aka. more difficult) study course throughout the 2 years.
From our observation with our students at the tuition centre, JC life is tough, hours are long, and for the two whole years, you will be slogging non-stop. Challenging, but good grades are totally achievable. And there many students who made it to university eventually. There are also CCAs to help students balance between their study and play.
If you are aiming for a quicker entry into the job market, then Poly education would be a good choice, since a relevant Diploma will increase your job prospects and get you interviews faster, compared to a A-level certificate holder. And if you dislike the usual Mathematics and Sciences or Arts subjects offered at O-levels examinations, then consider the Poly. There are many specialised courses offered by the different Polytechnics in Singapore and all the courses will find their usefulness in the different sectors and industries in Singapore. However, if you are planning to advance your education after getting your diploma, just know that the opportunities are lesser than the A-level students. Only about 20 percent of diploma holders will get a place in the local universities every year, and they are usually those who excel in their faculty and who did consistently well for the three years in the Polytechnic.
Some students know very early what they want in life and already found their passion for certain type of work, many don’t. We know students who aspire to be in the hospitality and service industry and would know which Poly offers the best courses for their chosen field. Some students want to be in Early Childhood Education or Nursing sector. We also know students who dislike the usual Math and Science subjects and who found interest in various Engineering courses. For these students, Poly seem to be the best choice. However do take note that although the diploma course spans over three years, the work required is just as much and will not be necessarily easier than JC work. We are sometimes amazed by parents and students who think that life in Poly is a lot easier than in JC. If it is that easy, then the Diploma would not be that valuable. Fortunately, the Diplomas offered by all Polytechnics in Singapore are highly regarded by our own employers and the rest of the world.
In summary, know what you want to do and map out a plan. If you are still lost, talk to a teacher or any adult who has been through the same situation as you. If you are a parent, help your child discover his/her strength and passion and then encourage them to pursue their interest. Don’t expect to get an answer right away if you have not discussed with your child before. There are risk and opportunity costs involved. So take a few days to explore those options.
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