IF you think those who go 'private' do so because they can't get into public universities, think again.
Many with good grades from good junior colleges study in private institutions.
'This perception of mediocrity is wrong because there's a good level of competition here,' said Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) student Kenneth Tham, 21.
He scored 2As and a B for his A levels, and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University at Buffalo in New York. The part-time bartender juggles school and work, and is on the Dean's list, with a grade-point average of 4.0.
And he's part of a growing number with A levels who opt for this path.
About a quarter of Freely Business School's students have sat for their A-levels, said its BBA programme director Evelyn Quek.
Ms Ho Soon Eng, director of higher education in SIM, said: 'We have our own academic board to assess applicants and a quality assurance system.
'We won't compromise on quality because our students' success is our success.'
Private schools are widening choices with unique programmes and foreign university tie-ups.
This gives students 'the best of east as well as west'.
Such private institutions also prepare their students well for the working world.
SIM student Chua Bing Zhen was able to apply the theories she learnt in her marketing course to her online fashion accessories business.
'The environment at SIM also pushes you to be business-minded and professional,' said the budding entrepreneur.
Some institutions have also improved their facilities.
The 3-ha UniCampus of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) on Stirling Road opened in 2005, with modern sporting and teaching facilities as well as video streaming that allows students to do revision at their own pace any time, any where.
At UNB College's campus on Upper Serangoon, learning is enhanced by technology, such as Powerpoint presentations in lessons.
Business and management courses are among the most popular among students.
Freely Business School offers a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a focus on business travel, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.
The degree is offered together with the Paris Graduate School of Management.
At APMI Kaplan, A-level students with at least two credits and three O-level credits can go directly into its professional accounting programme.
Students can also pursue an applied accounting degree with the Oxford Brookes University at the same time, or after completing the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants course.
Business courses most popular
At the Singapore Institute of Commerce, students can study a range of subjects including accounting and finance, international business management and logistics and supply chain management. These degree programmes are offered in conjunction with Northumbria University in the UK.
Hospitality management and tourism programmes are the latest courses on the plates of established schools like MDIS and the East Asia School of Business. (See above report.)
Students with an artistic bent can hone their creative talents at Lasalle College of the Arts.
A-level holders who meet entry requirements can get direct entry into its arts management, film and technical theatre arts degree courses.
For those who are keen on an overseas education, Australia remains popular.
And Australian universities have established facilities to suit the demands of international students. Mr Suhaimy Hassan, a director at Australian Education International Singapore, said: 'It is not rare nowadays to find Muslim prayer rooms in many Australian universities.'
- By Charissa Yong and Aditi Shivaramakrishnan, newsroom interns
This article was first published in The New Paper on Mar 7, 2008