Category Archives: Education

Polytechnics vs Junior Colleges: Will the debate ever end?

Polytechnics or Junior Colleges? This is a question that never fails to stir up the hornet’s nest every time it is asked.

Singaporeans have so many different opinions over this issue and are so fired up, that letters will time to time appear either saying ‘Poly is the best route’! or ‘JC is the only way to universities’!

But this letter by Lee Beng Tat probably takes the cake.

With his feet firmly planted in the JC’s camp, he starts off by slamming Polytechnics and accusing them of mind-games when attracting students, amongst other accusations:

Polytechnics lure students with glossy brochures and spiels about their fabulous courses, but fail to tell them how difficult it is for them to enter local universities via the poly route.How many 16-year-olds will forgo sexy-sounding courses like communications and finance over subjects like physics, chemistry or mathematics?

Ironically, these polytechnic brochures often boast of how many of their graduates enter university. But they are silent on the reality that employers value degrees more than diplomas.

I’m appalled by his following statements:

Polytechnics pride themselves on hands-on training while JCs arm a student with more in-depth grounding in core subjects to prepare them for university.

To JC students, university is and has always been their final destination. To poly students, their end point, in Singapore at least, should be their diploma.

If they want to go beyond that in Singapore, they should choose the JC route. If they do not qualify, it is not the Government’s fault.

Nothing should stop them from pursuing their dream overseas, but they cannot expect greater access to local universities just because it is costlier to study abroad.

A place in a good local university is a limited resource and should go to the most deserving; in this case, those who qualify for JC and have consciously decided to take the JC path to prepare themselves for a university education and not a diploma.

So is basically what he’s trying to say here is,

‘If you choose to go to Poly, please do not snatch the places that JC students are allocated in local universities. Go overseas instead, I don’t care if you have the money or not. If you don’t qualify, tough luck. blame the Government for introducing this system’.

While I agree with him that to JC students, university is and will always be their final destination, I feel his argument is flawed.

For starters, only the top 10 percent of Polytechnic students make it to University. This rule which is set by local universities in Singapore, also look at the candidates O’Levels results during admission.

So why does Mr Lee, even with this rule, feel threaten by Polytechnic students competing with JC students for a place in a local university?

Perhaps as a JC student. he lost his place in a local university to a Poly student, which angered him so much that he feels that Polytechnics are the bane of the education system.

Kirsten Han, a Polytechnic student who couldn’t get a place in a local university explains why Poly students wants a place in a local university and why Poly students should deserve a place in local universities:

I was one of the lucky ones; my parents could afford to send me overseas. However, plenty of poly students in Singapore work very hard in their field to achieve excellence, but cannot afford to get an overseas degree. That is why they are looking to enter local universities.

If we were truly a meritocratic society (which we love to claim that we are), we would be happy to let these students in, because they have worked hard and should reap the rewards.

But what are we doing? Telling them to go overseas if they want to better themselves?

And then we wonder why Singapore is experiencing a brain drain? If you’re not only not going to reward me for my hard work, but also tell me that I am not your problem and should just bugger off overseas, then why should I come back?

Well, the jury is still out on whether the Poly or JC path is the best route. When students who can make it to JC chose to go Poly, they are prepared to be in the top 10 percent.

So who can they blame if they can’t make it to a local university?

The lines between JC and Poly are blurred and will continue to be as some people who are already in JC drop out and go to Poly.

This argument will never end if we have people who have an elitist mindset like Mr Lee, who believes that JC students who are armed with degrees are the best and should therefore be guaranteed a place in a local university.

(Author’s note: Correction: Kirsten did not complete her Poly education as she moved to New Zealand and therefore did not apply to a local university.)

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