Why I Chose Not to Go to an Elite School (Personal)

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(This story was submitted by our tutor Dave Tan)

I do not know which school to go. I feel so lost. I don’t know what I want.

These were questions I faced right after I received my GCE O Levels results. 

Personally, I did very well for my O Levels with nett 4 points (L1R5), 8 A1s – English, Chinese, A/E Math, Triple Science and Combined Humanities.

I knew I wanted to go to Junior College, as I excelled in the O Levels. (See: JC or Poly?)

There were 2 Junior Colleges I had in mind, National JC (Elite school) and Pioneer JC (Neighbourhood school, now known as JPJC).

JAE 2015 - Junior College Cut-off Points

As seen above, the cut-off point for NJC is 5, while PJC is 13. 

Of course, many people I spoke to had the same belief as my parents: to get into NJC.

After much consideration, speaking to seniors, as well as visiting open houses, I ultimately came to a decision: to pick PJC over NJC

Why a neighbourhood JC over an Elite JC? Here are a few factors I considered:

1. Learning Environment
2. Teaching
3. Opportunities

Above are part of the many factors I considered before making my decision to not to go the Elite JC. (See: 5 Things to Consider when Choosing Schools)

1. Learning Environment

Different schools have different learning environments.

Some are more fast-paced, some accommodate students with a slower learning pace. (See: 12 Study Tips from A Level Top Scorer)

As I came from a less prominent ‘neighbourhood’ school, I was afraid that I would be unable to cope with the fast-paced and competitive learning environment in elite schools like NJC, compared to what I’m used to.

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(a) Pace of Lessons

In PJC, I never found it hard to catch up with homework or lectures. 

Teachers there understand that they need to accommodate the learning speed of students and this allowed me to better understand topics. 

– I had a friend in secondary school who transferred from an ‘elite’ school to my ‘neighbourhood’ secondary school as she was unable to cope with the stress she faced. 

– She did fairly well for her PSLE but it did not mean she would’ve been able to cope with the speed at which the school teaches. 

So to all parents and students, make sure to not over-estimate your own/your children’s learning pace!

2. Teaching

Each school has its own culture among the teachers as well. It is without a doubt that many of the schools with higher academic achievements do house the best teachers. 

Students can learn and study more effectively in these schools when surrounded with a pool of quality teachers. 

However, there are also other schools which can have very caring and helpful teachers as well. 

Teachers in these schools understand the various needs of students and are then also able to cater to their needs (i.e. consultations, extra classes).

(a) Consultations

This was evident in PJC as I saw how teachers there were also very willing to sacrifice their after school time to have consults with students.

Much unlike my same-age cousin who was in an elite JC, where it’s almost impossible to book teachers for consultations as they are always fully booked. (See: market tuition rates, 2019)

Busy Schedule - Why I Chose Not to Go to an Elite School , home tuition, tuition agency, singapore tuition, private tutor

3. Opportunities

Some people strongly believe that students can only get opportunities to have a holistic education in ‘elite’ schools.

This depends on the individual as while there may be undoubtedly better opportunities in these schools, places are often limited as people compete for these slots.

However, if you end up doing well in a school with less competition, you may then naturally stand out from the rest and be granted many of such opportunities!

(a) Competition for Opportunities

I entered PJC as one of the O Level top scorers, and was given the opportunity to participate in their Sirius Scholars’ Programme.

– Through the programme, I obtained lots of valuable exposure like interview courses, grassroots events as well as overseas exchange cum work shadowing programmes.

– During my 2 years in junior college, I also obtained academic awards like the Daisy Phay MOE Foundation Award in JC1 and the Jian Li Scholarship in JC2.

All of which would not have been possible if I had entered NJC instead, with many others having similar results.

This is really the story of ‘big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond’. 

As such, as a student or parent you really need to know what is best for you or your children and evaluate which school is able to bring the best out of him.

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Neighbourhood or Elite School?

Choosing to go to an Elite School if you are eligible to, may be the definite option for many.

However, it all comes down to the summarised factors mentioned above to decide if going to an Elite School is for you:

Learning Pace: know if a fast learning pace is effective, or a slower more detailed teaching pace
Pressured Environment: know if you thrive in a high-pressured, competitive environment (Elite school)
Extra classes: recognise if consultations and extra classes are necessary for you

Not everyone is suited for the rigour and pace in Elite schools (See: Ex-GEP/Elite-School students, Where Are They Now?). 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses and work towards it.

2 Years in a Neighbourhood School

After 2 years in PJC, I completed my GCE A Levels with 6 Distinctions in 7 subjects (AAA/A), and a pass for H3 Math (Linear Algebra). 

I also built up a strong portfolio and testimonial with lots of grassroots events experience, leadership and OGL foundation.

Ultimately, choosing PJC was the right decision for me as the many factors such as school environment and opportunities allowed me to thrive and gain lots of exposure during my JC days.

(This article was written by our tutor Dave Tan, on why he chose a Neighbourhood School over an Elite School)

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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.

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