The Poly Vs JC Debate

“Eh… nowadays poly not bad ah, got people get PSC Scholdarship!” My mother pipes up from behind her glasses, gesturing to an article she received from her exercise Whatsapp group.

I look at the headlines – 9 out of 93 PSC scholarship recipients in 2019 are polytechnic graduates, an all-time high. I throw her a cursory stare and rebut “Last time you sure you will let mei mei and I go poly meh?” “Times change mah” – she quips back without missing a beat.

I munch my Kellogg’s corn flakes and contemplate what she said – times have changed.  Indeed, things are very different now compared to, say, one to two decades ago, when all parents wanted to do was push their kids towards Junior College (JC), often being seen as the “easiest route to university”. And back in those days, local university was the end-all, the ultimate goal in the academic rat race.

Things are definitely different now. People complain of a graduate glut and there is talk of moving towards skills-based rather than paper-based qualifications. So I’ve reasoned it out in my mind and here are 3 reasons why it might be better to take the poly route instead.


#1 More and more poly grads are making it to university

It used to be the case where university cohorts were largely made out of those who came from JC. But in recent years, the numbers that come from polytechnic are increasing. In recent years, 1 in 3 admitted to university are polytechnic graduates.

I see it as a good thing that the university pool will become more diverse as JC and polytechnic students bring their own sets of experiences shaped through the course of their school systems. JC students could bring a more empirical approach to looking at things while polytechnic students can complement with real world/working world experience.

#2 New scheme guarantees Polytechnic graduates get a spot in uni and lets them skip 1 year

Rolling out in 2020, a new “through-train” programme will allow polytechnic students to not only get a place in a local university, but also be assured of a job. Woah… talk about leveling up! This seamless integrated pathway will be rolled out to more courses by the Ministry of Education, orchestrating these various partnerships.

#3 Having a diploma and a degree is like the best of both worlds

In all honesty, most employers won’t hire someone fresh out of JC, but that’s not the case for a diploma holder. Someone fresh out of polytechnic usually has a higher chance of securing employment compared to someone with only an A level certification.

Moreover, if you do the math, going the polytechnic and then to university route gives you the best of both worlds – being able to get a diploma and a degree. To top it off, both the JC-University and Polytechnic- University routes require roughly 5 years each, but the a person who goes through the latter will come out with more recognized qualifications.

JC 2 years + Uni 3 years = Degree

Poly 3 years + Uni 2 years = Diploma + Degree



This brings me back to the story of Mr Teo Chuan Kai, one of the PSC scholarship recipients who scored 6 points for his O ’Levels but decided to pursue a diploma course in Infocomm Security Management at Singapore Polytechnic instead. He felt that the way polytechnics presented their curriculum was far more interesting than regular subjects, citing interesting modules such as cryptography. With a diploma and PSC scholarship under his belt, he will go on to read Information Security at the National University of Singapore; proving that with wise planning and hard work, one will be able to achieve the best of both worlds.

Incidentally, a total of 9 polytechnic graduates received the PSC Scholarship this year, the highest so far in the history of the award. YAY! So happy to see how there’s now more diversity in the scholars’ pool, ensuring educational opportunities for all and meritocracy.

More importantly

At the end of the day, A Levels, Diplomas and Degrees are but certifications. It’s equally, if not more, important that students learn soft skills and life skills along the way, immerse themselves in real world learning and constantly seek to upgrade their skills to stay ahead of the curve.

And know what? There’s only one way to stay relevant – life long learning.


Featured image from: Asia One 

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