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A Comprehensive Guide: JC or Polytechnic?

JC or Polytechnic - After O Levels, Singapore Secondary Education. CocoTutors, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, singapore tuition

For most students who just finished their GCE O Levels, choosing which path to go next is often a headache. 

Both Junior College (JC) and Polytechnic (Poly) have their own Pros and Cons but this is often left to the student to decide for themself. Some key differences are: 

– Future Career/Educational Path
– Stress Levels, Curriculum, Discipline
– University Admission
– Cost, Others

For those stuck in a dilemma, I will be weighing out the boons and banes of these two potential paths for O Level graduates below.

1. Future Career/Education Path

What comes after tertiary education – University or work, would largely depend on whether you go to JC or Poly (or IB)

(a) Junior College

– Aiming to get into University. About “70% of each JC cohort” manage to secure university places. The bulk of JC students manage to make it to University with their A Level results

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– Have to select subject combination but no need to commit to a specific course; more time before you decide what you want to pursue (instead of choosing at 16 years old)

– GCE A Level certificate is useless if you don’t make it to University. Unlike diploma holders, you have no experience or relevant skill sets to contribute to the workforce

– You’ll rise up the ranks and pay hierarchy faster than diploma holders if you make it to University

(b) Polytechnic

– Good to go University (but not compulsory). About 20% of the 2015 Poly cohort made it to University, with plans to admit more Polytechnic students in the future

– Have to commit to a course of study (at 16 years old) – hard to jump courses later on if no interest

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– Most local universities only accept students with relevant diplomas

– Diploma is sufficient to get you a decent job with a decent starting pay

– Lower starting salaries, slower promotions and pay raises – “Diploma holders had a median starting salary of around $2100 whereas the median of degree holders is around $3300.”

2. Leisure Time/Stress Levels

Both institutions also have starkly different learning environments – stress levels and leisure time.

(a) Junior College

– Dubbed by many as the hardest exam ever, you spend a lot of time in school (fixed timetables) and studying for A Levels.

Junior College lecture - After O Levels, Singapore Secondary Education. CocoTutors, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, singapore tuition

– Academic-based. The main focus is still on individual subject disciplines with less focus on life and knowledge skills. (See: 12 Study Tips from Scoring 90 Rank Points)

– Hardly anytime left to play around apart from weekends

– Considered as an “upgrade” from O Levels as it is of a similar but much harder curriculum

(b) Polytechnic

Project-based/practice-based. Focuses on learning life skills and other key developmental skills essential for the workforce.

Polytechnic Project - After O Levels, Singapore Secondary Education. CocoTutors, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, singapore tuition
Credit: Temasek Polytechnic

– Usually more flexible timetables (some students even have days without lessons)

– More leisure time in general. However some courses like Design will have more intensive projects that take up a lot of time.

– Different framework from O Levels. Polytechnic is based on a cumulative GPA (cGPA) which determines your overall GPA by taking into account exam grades over 3 years – must be consistent

3. Curriculum

What you learn throughout the 2-3 years is significantly different between the 2 institutions.

(a) Junior College

– Standard subjects (i.e. Mathematics, Sciences, History, Geography, etc), 4 core subjects (excluding languages, project work) with 3 H2/1 H1 or 4 H2’s

– Compulsory Project Work which lasts for 1 year

– 1 year of Mother Tongue if you did not pass Higher Mother Tongue in Secondary School

(b) Polytechnic

– Fixed course of study, with many different modules for each course, per semester

Projects depend on course of study (some courses have more projects i.e. business)

– No need for Mother Tongue

4. Discipline

Junior Colleges have strict rules and regulations to follow, just like a Secondary School.

(a) Junior College

– School uniform, neat black hair, no external accessories (only plus point is own shoes)

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– Fixed reporting time every morning for morning assembly

– Attendance is compulsory

(b) Polytechnic

– Personal wardrobe, fanciful hair, there are almost no limits. Also means you have to worry about your wardrobe in the morning.

– You go whichever day and time you have lessons on. No lesson = no need to be in school. If you’re lucky, you might only have 3 days of lessons a week!

– Usually Percentage-based Attendance (i.e. 75% of attendance required)

5. Cost

Junior Colleges are generally less expensive compared to Polytechnics; while independent schools are more costly due to lesser government subsidy.

(a) Junior College

– Usually more cost-friendly at $6/month + $13.50/month in miscellaneous fees 

– Autonomous schools (i.e. Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institution, etc) usually pay about $300+ per month

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MOE School Fees - Monthly Cost

(b) Polytechnic

– Usually students pay about $2900 per year in tuition fees

Polytechnic School Fees - After O Levels, Singapore Secondary Education. CocoTutors, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, singapore tuition
Polytechnic School Fees - Singapore Polytechnic

– Less affordable compared to government-based pre-universities

6. University Admission

The University Admission process/criteria is different between the two academies.

(a) Junior College

– Higher Percentage gaining admission into University

– Based on Rank Points (out of 90), dropping 1 grade for a H2 subject means 2.5 points less, dropping 1 grade for a H1 subject means 1.25 points less (i.e. getting AAB/B for the 4 core subjects = 86.25 rank points)

Rank Point Counter - Junior College Subject Combination - CocoTutors' Blog, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, maths tuition, science tuition, jc subject combination

– JC students used to the academic rigour in Junior College may adapt better to the curriculum in University (arguable)

(b) Polytechnic

– Lower Percentage gaining admission into University

– Based on cumulative GPA (out of 4.0). Different grades offers different GPAs for each module, and different modules have different number of credit units (some weigh heavier than others)

GPA Polytechnic/University Calculation - After O Levels, Singapore Secondary Education. CocoTutors, home tuition, tuition agency, private tutor, singapore tuition

– Polytechnic students who go to University often end up taking the same course, thus potentially giving them a head start. Some polytechnic courses also provide students with a 1 year exemption for local universities (refer to individual universities websites)

7. Others

Some other factors you might want to consider before making your final decision of going to a JC or Polytechnic

(a) Junior College

– 2 years spent studying

– Usually shorter hours due to a cramped and rigid timetable but this is subject to Project Work (1st year), CCAs, as well as consultations (night study sessions can stretch up till 10pm)

– Standard June and December holidays (March and September holidays are often lesson-packed)

Internship/Scholarship opportunities available for A Level graduates (often government-based organisations looking for potential scholars, i.e. Land Transport Authority, Public Utilities Board, National Environmental Agency, Ministry of Home Affairs, etc)

(b) Polytechnic

– 3 years spent studying

– Often longer hours due to regular school hours, as well as an occasional influx of multiple projects at one go

– Total of about 18 weeks of holiday in an academic year

Internship opportunity available during course of study (more comprehensive compared to internships for A Level graduates) which generally ranges for about 4 to 6 months

So.. JC or Polytechnic?

To summarise, each education path has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is good to know your strengths in order to make an informed decision. 

Some guiding questions for JC:

1. Whether you can handle a much harder O Levels
2. Are you willing to study almost everyday

Try to sound out more from friends, family, teachers and counsellors to find out more about each path. 

Ultimately, always begin with the end in mind as whether you enter a Junior College or a Polytechnic, it is definitely possible for one to excel.

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Miriam

Miriam is part of the team that operates CocoTutors: #1 Home Tuition Agency in Singapore. We connect Parents and students to Tutors, via our tuition-matching system. You can try out our services at (www.cocotutors.com/) or by calling +65 9177 9055 directly.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hey,
    Thanks for your great guidance. This Blog is very helpful for students who are interested in Polytechnic Engineering. This is a Very impressive and insightful article. You’re doing a great job to help people understand Polytechnic engineering better. Thank you so much for sharing great content. Keep writing!

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