Friday, January 6, 2012

Should I go to JC or poly?

WHEN it comes to deciding on post-secondary education, parents such as Ms Acey Cheong, 45, want to be involved.

The IT professional took leave from work Tuesday to attend the Nanyang Junior College's (NYJC) JC Experience programme with her son, Bryan Kee, 16.

She said: "This is a decision which sets the stage for his future career and we have to help him with it."

Since 2009, NYJC has been helping O-level graduates with negotiating the dilemma of choosing between a junior college or a polytechnic education.

Over two days, 180 graduates from 36 secondary schools took part in games and talks at NYJC.

There was an Amazing Race which took students to five stations across campus. Students were also able to sample 30-minute lectures in General Paper and economics, subjects which are new to them.

This is the fourth year the junior college has held the programme, which costs $4,500.

This year, for the first time, 20 parents joined in, taking part in a partially separate programme of talks and a school tour.

Mrs Elsie Lee, a part-time childcare teacher in her 40s who was there with her 16-year-old daughter Shermaine Lee, said she learnt useful facts, like how about 80 to 85 per cent of NYJC graduates enter local universities every year, not including those opting for private or overseas universities.

Still, the programme "does not advocate that students must join a JC", stressed Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang, 57, principal of NYJC.

He explained: "We are frank about the challenges, when it comes to the rigour of JC education. But we also try to clear misconceptions - that students shouldn't skip JC just because they want to avoid GP, for example."

NYJC decided to run this special programme after the Ministry of Education's decision to scrap the Provisional Admissions Exercise in 2009, under which students used their preliminary exam results to enter a JC.

Under the old system, students had a three-month period to experience JC life, before the Joint Admission Exercise after the release of O-level results next month.

Onus on students

With the present single admissions process, the onus is all the more on students to choose well.

For Lee Wan Rong, 16, the choice is a matter of "what kind of environment you want to be in".

She said: "I don't really have a preference... polytechnic life appears to be less stressful, with more free time. For JC, I think there's more stress, because you have to cram for the A levels during the two years."

Students who choose the JC route would benefit from the broad-based education as it allows them to keep their university course options open, said Ms Amy Chiew, 34, head of student leadership development at NYJC.

See Yi Cheen, 16, who had deliberated between JC and polytechnic education before entering NYJC through the school's Direct Schools Admission exercise, was attracted by the message from polytechnics that "they are specialised, they groom you to the job".

She said: "But I haven't really confirmed what I want to do in the future... if I make the wrong choice in the polytechnic route, I may be stuck with it."

This article was first published in The New Paper.
Rennie Whang | The New Paper | Fri Jan 6 2012

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