Despite the growing popularity of polytechnics, junior colleges have held their own.
In the last seven years till 2013, JCs have maintained a yearly intake of more than 16,000 students, data from the Ministry of Education showed.
The figure has hovered from about 16,100 to 16,400 each year, which makes up about 27 per cent to 28 per cent of the size of each cohort back at Primary 1.
These include students from the 12 JCs which offer the two-year A-level course, such as Anderson JC and Catholic JC, as well as the 11 schools which run the six-year integrated programme (IP), allowing students to skip the O levels.
Hwa Chong Institution, River Valley High School and the School of the Arts are among the IP schools.
In 2017, a new JC will open to take in students from these three schools - Catholic High, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' and the Singapore Chinese Girls' - which started offering the IP in 2013.
Even though the intake for the five polytechnics rose from 25,700 in 2010 to 26,879 in 2013, the number of students entering JCs has not fallen, probably because more students are continuing their studies beyond secondary school.
Of the Primary 1 cohort in 2003, 95 per cent made it to post-secondary institutions, compared with about 90 per cent for the 1994 cohort.
Despite their friends choosing polytechnics, students who opted for JCs said they wanted a shorter route to a university degree.
A polytechnic course usually spans three years.
They also said they preferred an academic learning approach over more hands-on work, on which polytechnics place greater emphasis.
Previous figures show that about 70 per cent of those from JCs secured a place in the local universities, compared with about 20 per cent of the polytechnic cohort.
Abigail Sim, 18, from Victoria JC, chose the JC path because it was a "broader" and "safer" option, as she had not decided on her interest.
Ancel Ho, also 18, from Innova JC, said: "I prefer exams to project-based assessment, so I knew I was more suited to JC."
But he added: "I have friends who did well and chose to go to polytechnics because they had passion in areas like game design.
"In the past, polytechnic was always the second choice. But now it's almost equal.
"I don't think one is superior."
Elicia Nadya Elvis Isyak, 18, from Tampines JC, said: "My cousins and seniors told me JC is better because it's a shorter route to university."
This article was first published on Jan 11, 2015.
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