When it comes to education, some believe the path to success is straight and narrow, while others may change their minds and take a detour that completely alters their journey.
Schoolbag speaks to Enzo Koh, a J2 student at Jurong Pioneer Junior College, on why he took a leap of faith and transferred from polytechnic to junior college after a year, and how he has grown from the decision.
By Lim Jun Kang
Enzo Koh, a J2 student at Jurong Pioneer Junior College, has always enjoyed mathematics. Tackling complex equations and formulas, and the satisfaction of cracking a problem sum, appealed to him. This passion for problem-solving came in handy when he reached an unusual checkpoint in life: he had this niggling regret about his school choice.
By calculating the risks and assessing the odds, he found confidence to take a leap of faith – to make an unconventional move to transfer from a polytechnic to a Junior College (JC). It turned out to be a winning solution for him.
From indecision and uncertainty, to unexpected clarity
Back in 2020, when Enzo was in Secondary 4, he had the opportunity to apply for the Polytechnic Early Admissions Exercise (EAE). Students who are performing well in school can apply for, and receive conditional offers for admission to polytechnics prior to receiving their final grades, during the exercise.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Diploma in Accountancy appeared to be a good course fit for him, given his passion in Mathematics and his impression that an accounting career offers financial stability. Enzo went on to secure a conditional spot in the course but was soon faced with a dilemma when he received his O-Level results later.
“I was eligible for the JC track, and there was this lingering thought that it could suit me better since I could pursue a wider range of subjects I was interested in, like Mathematics and the Humanities,” Enzo recalls. “But since I was already committed to my Poly course, I dismissed it and decided to give it a shot.”
As he started on his polytechnic course, Enzo realised that accounting was not what it seemed. “Accounting seemed fun because I thought there’s maths involved and applied in practical ways. But it was not the case – it was more like calculating interest rates and revenue, and this did not interest me, since I enjoyed other aspects of mathematics such as algebra and calculus.”
Timing may have made things worse: Enzo enrolled in the course during the COVID-19 pandemic and had few opportunities to meet his course mates and make new friends.
“I felt really alone and isolated, and the whole experience really made me rethink my choice,” Enzo says wistfully. “I weighed my options and felt that transferring to a JC would be the best option for me to pursue what I really wanted to do.”
Making the best of a second opportunity
The notion of transferring to a JC was met with mixed reactions from his parents.
“My parents typically do not place pressure on me to do well for my studies, and they usually leave the decision-making to me on the route I want to take,” Enzo says. “They trust that I would know what I wanted to do.”
But transferring from a polytechnic to a JC is an uncommon move. Enzo’s parents felt that he had already spent almost a year in polytechnic and were concerned if he could cope with the abrupt change to a JC curriculum and school culture – a sentiment Enzo shared.
Determined, Enzo buried himself in research, speaking to his friends on what school life in a JC was like, along with information on the culture and academic expectations. “I came up with a ‘plan’ and presented it to my parents,” he jokes. “This is what I want to do, and this is how I am going to go about doing it.”
They saw that he had done his research and thought things through, and were soon in full support of their son’s decision.
Says Enzo, “Ultimately, I am the one who will actually be ‘experiencing’ my course of study, and being impacted by the decisions I make. I did not want to do something that I would not enjoy.”
Crafting his own definition of success
As he enters his final year of studies at Jurong Pioneer JC, Enzo remains thankful for his decision.
He appreciates the more structured learning environment in JC, and being able to take subjects he is interested in. As he warmed up to his new environment, he took on leadership roles as an Orientation Group Leader (OGL) and the Vice President of the school’s Debate Society, which allowed him to be more immersed in school life and forge friendships.
Enzo (right) with his OGL mates during a recent Orientation Camp at Jurong Pioneer Junior College.
Best of all, there is Maths. He has been so inspired by his Maths tutor Kum Mun Fai that he aspires to be a teacher like him one day. “He sparked my further curiosity in the subject with his intriguing explanations, and I felt that he genuinely wants his students to do well."
Even with that goal in mind, Enzo is not putting too much pressure on himself.
“If my results permit, that is something I want to pursue,” he shrugs. “I am just going to do my best, and pursue what I am interested in.”
As for his parents, Enzo says, “They are happy to see that I am way happier than before, and I could feel they were quite proud of me too.”
Indeed, if there were one thing he has learnt from his eventful education journey so far, it is that there is “no clear definition of success as it is different for everyone”.
“I just have to reflect about what success means to me, and just put in my best effort.”
Watch Enzo in conversation with Education Minister Chan Chun Sing here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHkL1UbRL1A
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