TL;DR – It depends on the child
Students who sat for the O-Levels examinations last year recently got their results. That officially marks the end of one stage of their education. Now they have reached a crossroads in their educational journey. Should they go to JC? Should they go to a Polytechnic? If they go to a Polytechnic, what course should they do?
The conventional wisdom is that going to JC is a better option than going to polytechnic. Most of our friends who are parents would rather their children go to JC. But is going to JC really a better option that going the polytechnic route? We don’t think so.
Why do people think going to JC is better?
Let’s start by considering what makes people think that going to JC is a better option that going to polytechnic. Many Singaporean parents hope for their children to go to university. There are more JC students than polytechnic students going to our local universities. So it would seem that a student who goes to JC would have a better chance of going to university than if she were to go to a polytechnic.
That line of logic is simplistic. And likely wrong.
Must compare students with the same L1R5
Universities are generally designed to admit students who are more academically inclined. In other words, students who are able to do better in examinations than their peers stand a better chance at getting into a university in Singapore. If that’s the case, then in order to compare whether a JC student stands a better chance of making it to university than a polytechnic student, then what we should really do is to compare two students who have done equally well at the O-levels.
To find out, we should get all the students who took O-Levels, find all the students who went to polytechnic but actually could have gone to JC. Then band them according to their L1R5. For each L1R5, find the proportion of the students who went to polytechnic that made it to university. Compare that to the proportion of students who scored the same L1R5, went to JC and made it to university. Would the two proportions be the same? We don’t have the data. But we highly suspect that to be the case.
Still not convinced?
If your child scored an L1R5 of… say 16 or higher. Yes, she can make it to JC. But what do you think her chances are of making it to a university in Singapore? We have heard anecdotes of many students who have a L1R5 of 16 or higher, went to JC, but didn’t make it to university. And what are they left with? A completely useless A-Level certificate. Some of these students eventually went to a polytechnic, then went on to university.
Polytechnic students now have more options than before
If those student had gone to polytechnic directly, even if they hadn’t made it to university, at least they would have a diploma, which is a whole lot more useful than just a A-Level certificate that allow them to go to university.
What’s more, with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SiT), polytechnic graduates have another avenue to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Still not enough?
In 2016, all five public universities in Singapore have set up dedicated units to help citizens learn new skills throughout their lives as part of the SkillsFuture programme, it was announced this week. The new units will help universities prepare themselves to deliver new kinds of courses to mid-career citizens, through shorter courses, more online training and creating deeper ties with employers. Some of these courses can be counted towards certificates awarded by the universities.
But certificates aside, such courses allow Singaporeans, regardless whether they go to JC or polytechnic to continue to upgrade themselves and increase their ability to get better jobs. Put together, all these changes mean that parents shouldn’t be fixated on their children going to JC just because they think that that will let their children have a better chance of going to university. If that’s the case, what should parents do?
We think that parents should have a good discussion with their children. Are their children better suited for a JC type of education or an education in a polytechnic? A JC education is still very much guided by preparing for the A-levels. In contrast, the assessment in polytechnics are spread out over the three years, and there are generally more projects.
Also, for children who are fairly clear about what sort of careers they want to pursue in the future, a polytechnic education might be more suitable for them than a JC education. But if the child still doesn’t quite have a clear idea of what she wants to do, then going to JC might be a better option.
Better or not… really depends…
So… JC or polytechnic? It really depends on the child, especially with the changes in the education system. Parents should change their mindset, and understand all the new options that come with the many changes that have been put in place in these few years.