Polys, unis to take more with talents and interests

Polytechnics and universities will admit more students based on their talents and interests as they widen the focus from academic grades alone.

All five polytechnics, as well as three of the autonomous universities - Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) - will expand their existing aptitude-based admissions. The changes will be implemented for students entering the polytechnics and universities next year.

These admission schemes cater to students with abilities and interests in a specific course, as well as those with talents in other areas, such as sports and community service.

"If we are learning something we are interested in, we are more likely to stay curious and engaged," Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament yesterday. "And if we can stay curious, we are likely to make that subject a lifetime pursuit. If we make it a lifetime pursuit, we achieve mastery."

The polytechnics already take in such students through the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise (DPA) and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise (JPSAE), which can admit up to 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the polytechnic intake respectively each year.

Now, a new Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) will replace the DPA. The JPSAE, which covers a small segment of students applying based on achievements like community work and sports, will also be wound down and folded into this new exercise.

The EAE, which will begin in the middle of this year, can admit up to 12.5 per cent of the intake. It will allow students to secure a place in a diploma course of their choice even before they sit the O-level exams.

The mode of assessment under the EAE may vary across courses, and can include interviews, portfolio submissions and aptitude tests.

From next year, a similar exercise will be put in place for students progressing from ITE to polytechnic.

At the course level, about one-third of polytechnic courses - such as those in health sciences, design and media - will raise their limits on students admitted via the aptitude-based admissions, from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

The universities too are expanding their discretionary admissions intake. From next year, NTU, NUS and SMU can admit up to 15 per cent of their annual intake under the discretionary admissions scheme, up from the current 10 per cent.

Under this scheme, applicants who do not meet the cut-off point for the course of their choice but display aptitude and meet minimum academic requirements to cope with the rigours of the course may be considered.

Mr Eng De Sheng, 24, a third-year NUS computer engineering student, was admitted via the scheme for his interest in computers. He has been running his own business offering diagnostics and repairs for computers and smartphones since secondary school.

He said: "This scheme gives those who are already pursuing their interests (a chance) to learn more in the universities."

But Mr Ong cautioned against "pushing the young to rush into declaring their interests prematurely".

This article was first published on April 9, 2016.
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