JC or poly? Make an informed choice

Dear students,

Some of you will be collecting your O-level results today and an important decision awaits you about which progression pathway you should choose.

There are many options, including the junior colleges (JCs), polytechnics (polys), the Institute of Technical Education and the arts institutions.

You may wonder about the key differences between the JC and poly routes and I hope to provide you with some information to help you make an informed choice.

One key difference is the mode of learning. In JCs, there is more emphasis on understanding theoretical concepts while in polys, the emphasis is on building industry-relevant skills through applied learning.

As such, poly courses are oriented towards specific careers while JC ones tend to be more broad-based and academic.

JC students take a few core subjects and go deep into the subjects over two years; poly students take more "bite-sized" modules that build on one another over three years.

On average, a poly student takes about five to seven modules per semester, and there are two semesters in an academic year.

The assessment approach is also different. I think most of you are aware that JC students take the A-level exams at one sitting at the end of two years. In the polys, students' results for every module that they take over the three years count towards the cumulative grade point average.

So what does this all mean?

A key consideration would be your preferred learning style: Do you prefer a more academic mode of learning or a more applied, hands-on type of learning?

When you were in secondary school, did you enjoy hands-on learning activities like laboratory sessions and project work?

Another key consideration would be whether you currently have a clear passion and inclination for specific careers.

For example, you might be drawn to the caring profession and you have the disposition and passion to pursue a career in nursing. In such a case, the poly route would be a good choice.

If you have no specific career inclinations now and would like to keep your options open, you may want to consider the JC route.

If you should choose to join a poly, you need to decide on a course. The five polys offer close to 250 diploma courses in total, so you do need a strategy to pick the right one.

My advice is to start by picking the clusters of courses that you might be interested in.

There are nine main clusters: engineering, built environment, maritime studies, health sciences, applied sciences, information and digital technologies, media and design, business management, and humanities.

Try to get a sense of the broad clusters you are interested in based on your passion and strengths. Think about which subjects you are passionate about and tend to do well in. For example, if you are very strong in mathematics and physics and you like making or fixing things, you may want to look at the engineering and built environment clusters. If you have a strong flair for creative work, you may want to look at the media and design cluster.

After identifying the relevant clusters, shortlist the courses of interest within the cluster.

At this point, it is important to read up on the course curriculum and career prospects of the different courses. You can typically get this information from the polys' prospectus or from their websites.

You can also visit the polys during the Joint Admissions Exercise to speak to the course counsellors.

Another point to note is that unlike the JCs, which follow a broad curriculum framework set by the Ministry of Education, the polys have the autonomy to design their own course curricula.

Hence, even diplomas in the same broad areas may have different emphasis and coverage when offered by different polys. The key is to find a course that fits your interest and strengths.

Your choice of courses should precede your choice of polys.

Let me explain this a little more. Say you are extremely interested in aerospace engineering and decide to choose aerospace engineering at Poly A as your first choice.

The logical second and third choices would be aerospace engineering in Poly B and Poly C, respectively, so that you maximise your chances of getting into your preferred course.

For some students, their priority is to get into a particular poly and they would rather choose courses that they are less interested in, to get into their poly of choice.

This may result in sub-optimal outcomes. Go for what you are interested in and good at. In any case, I do honestly believe that all five polys offer excellent learning experiences, so getting into the course of your choice should be a priority.

I hope I have offered you some help in making this very important decision. Do take some time to ponder over it and discuss it with your parents, teachers, and education and career guidance counsellors.

It leaves me to wish you all the very best, whichever route you may choose to take.

Remember that the future is what you make of it!

With best regards,

Ms Jeanne Liew

Principal & CEO

Nanyang Polytechnic

This article was first published on Jan 11, 2016.
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