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The Secondary School Crossroads: JC or Polytechnic?

Published on 31 October 2016 by Ng Shi Hui

Upon completion of the ‘O’ level examinations, secondary school students are presented with the daunting decision that’s presumably meant to dictate the rest of their lives. In one corner, we have the slightly more prestigious ‘Junior College’ route, which is a path that leads to the studies of even more theoretical applications. In the other corner, we have a wider range of academic and industrial options and the choice to specialize in an actual hard skill; the ‘Polytechnic’ route. This short write-up will shed some light into which of these two contenders might be the better option for you. Now, let’s get right into it and have a glimpse into what JC has to offer.

Junior College and who it’s for

There’s no need to go into the details of what Junior College has to offer, especially since majority of its subjects can be described as “a more advanced version of secondary school”. Not to mention that the atmosphere is far more similar to what you’re already used to, granted the requirement for uniforms and neat hair cuts, but that’s beside the point.

Junior College has the same academic requirements as secondary school, which includes a major examination and other tests, which is what a student’s performance will be almost entirely based on. Needless to stay, the rumours of how stressful the environment is have proven to be true time and time again. But if you’re able to persevere through the hardships and pressure, Junior College students are able to advance to prestigious local universities where they specialise in a course of study. Naturally, this will lead to better employment opportunities, especially in the local public sector.

However, there is a certain risk that comes with adopting the JC route; if you flunk out or get an unfavorable score, you’re basically stuck in a rut, especially if you intend to advance to a local university. Failure to complete your ‘A’ levels will mean that your highest qualification is ‘O’ levels. Your options would be to keep taking ‘A’ levels until you get a score that gets you accepted into local university, or you hit the ‘restart’ button and explore other educational options.

So, if you intend to attain a high position in the public sector in the far future, and you’re academically inclined, then Junior College should be the obvious answer. You can also consider enrolling into a JC if you’re not yet certain of what course of study you want to specialise in, but you’ll have to be absolutely certain that you’ll be able to keep up with the syllabus.

Polytechnic and who it’s for

Secondary school students tend to be more unfamiliar with the ins and outs of polytechnics. The delivery of its education differs vastly from what they’re used to. The way polytechnics function provide students with a lot more freedom for self-directed learning. It offers a wide variety of options including engineering, business, design, information and technology, nursing, sports science, health science, accounting, and other specialised courses of study.

The misconception that most students have about polytechnics is that there are less tests and examinations, but that is far from the truth. Depending on your course of study and the modules (or subjects) that you’re taking for the semester, the computation of your module’s (or subject’s) grade can be divided into presentations, individual or group assignments, class participation, and tests or examinations. So, there are tests and examinations, but they do play a slightly smaller amount of importance.

Given the nature of how polytechnic grades are calculated, flunking out or failing to attain your diploma is rather uncommon. It’s possible for you to attain your diploma with a low grade, which will affect your employability and your ability to enter university, but you’ll at the very least still have a diploma.

The amount of freedom given to polytechnic students is definitely attractive, especially from the perspective a secondary school student. However, that should not be your primary motivation for enrolling into polytechnic. It’s absolutely fundamental for secondary school students to be completely sure that the field of study they’re going into is what they actually want to do in the future. It’s difficult to get approval to change courses, and even if you do manage to do so, it can set you back a few semesters. Do note that polytechnic is a 3-year course, which means that you’ll be behind your peers if you ever decide to change your course.

Apart from that, secondary school students who intend to enroll into polytechnic need to do in-depth research into their employment opportunities upon graduation and determine if that’s what they really want to do in the future. It’s also necessary to understand the opportunities that they have to advance their education after polytechnic.

Final word

The truth is, neither of these options can be labelled as ‘better’. They’re different, but neither of which promises a bright future. Ultimately, your success is dependent on your overall performance in your next stage of education, and your performance after that. Everything boils down to your interests, learning style, aspirations, and what you truly want to do with your life. If you haven’t thought about your future, then it’s important to start answering some questions now. Spend some time after your ‘O’ levels talking to your older siblings, your parents, your older cousins, or your older friends, and try to understand the industries that they’re working in or their previous experiences in their respective courses of study. This will broaden your perspective of which route seems more applicable to you, and give you better insight into your own personal interests.

The route you choose is definitely important, but never forget that it’s not what’s going to determine your success in the future. Qualifications do play a part, but the most significant factor lies in your ability to be diligent, passionate, and an all around capable and contributing employee. Who knows, doors to entrepreneurship might even open for you, in which case, you could be as capable.

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2 thoughts on “The Secondary School Crossroads: JC or Polytechnic?”

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for the kind words. Hope to be able to come up with more useful and quality articles in the future =)

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