SINGAPORE - Every week, 22-year-old Jonathan Ong Jun Kai sheds his army fatigues for civilian clothes and drives to town. But while his friends head out for family dinners or dates with girlfriends, Mr Ong is off to school.
The marketing and finance major at Kaplan Singapore is one of an increasing number of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) enrolling in part-time degree courses at private schools even as they serve the nation, instead of waiting to resume their studies after two years of national service (NS).
They attend classes on weekends and in the evenings after they book out of camp.
This trend started just two years back, according to a Kaplan spokesman, adding that in the past only a "handful of students" were NSFs.
In 2011, 42 NSFs were pursuing part-time degrees at Kaplan. The figure went up to 73 in 2012, and this year, 139 out of 6,000 part-time students are NSFs.
"The NS men who choose to study part-time while serving the nation want to get a head start over their peers and enter the workforce earlier," explained Kaplan Singapore's executive vice-president Leon Choong.
The head of MDIS School of Engineering, Dr Ben Lim Kheng Kiong, has also noticed that his classes are seeing more NSFs, whom he said are looking to "use their time more productively".
PSB Academy, meanwhile, has seen a "modest" 13 per cent increase in the number of NSFs in part-time programmes from 2011 to 2012. While the school would not reveal exact figures, dean Susie Khoo believes the trend will become more common in the coming years.