Stock Image: Students during a group discussion. (Photo credit: Singapore Polytechnic)
A Poly student shares his thoughts on why he loves Poly, and why you might, too. By Lim Jun Rong Terence.
I like to think that there are many great mysteries in this world. Do aliens exist? What’s up with the Stonehenge? What lies at the bottom of the ocean?
But perhaps the most perplexing of them all – one that has never failed to boggle the minds of many – “Why didn’t you go to a JC, Terence?”
I always wanted to go to a Polytechnic, and initially, everyone was supportive of the idea. But when I scored seven distinctions for my O Levels, it was almost expected of me to go to a Junior College. Even now, whenever someone finds out about my O-Level results, there’s a high chance that they would ask why? Why settle for a Poly when you can go to a JC?
As tiring as these questions can get, I don’t exactly blame them for wondering. It’s a deep-rooted belief that going to a JC is better path, with better prospects of getting into a university. Poly was once the “slack option”, reserved for students who failed to get into a JC.
But that just isn’t true. Going to a Poly is just as viable as going to a JC – even more so for students like me.
Why I love Poly, and why you might, too.
I came into Singapore Polytechnic’s Creative Writing for TV and New Media course with high hopes of becoming a scriptwriter, but I learned so much more than that. I learned newswriting, photography, visual design and filmmaking – some of which I’ve grown to love even more than writing stories.
Compared to a traditional school environment, I found the project-based curriculum in Poly much more fulfilling. I was given many opportunities to interact with various communities – from disabled athletes to salted-fish farmers in Kuantan. Together with my coursemates, we’ve created short films, documentaries, a children’s book, and even our very own TV show concept, which we pitched to a panel of industry experts. These experiences didn’t just mean a stronger portfolio. They were unforgettable memories – things I can proudly call my own.
When you pursue a Polytechnic course out of passion, you’ll find yourself in a wonderful circle of people who share the same interest. To some extent, I was kind of a weird kid in secondary school, gushing about fictional characters and writing fanfiction to fulfill my greatest power fantasies – but in my Poly course, everyone was that weird kid. I’ve found these people to be my greatest friends, residing in a symbiotic relationship where we exploit one another as free labour for our personal film projects.
I always thought that people who loved going to school were either lying or delusional – but now, I’m glad to be one of them.
However, it’s not all fun and games.
It’s a popular belief that going to a Poly is “easier”. While I can’t say much about what it’s like in JC, I can assure you that Poly is undoubtedly, most definitely, not easy.
Poly students are known to be less busy, and that’s true to some extent. Compared to JC students, our timetables are a lot less hectic. We have a lot more free time – but with great freedom comes great responsibility.
Your lecturers aren’t there to babysit you. You are solely responsible for meeting whatever deadline they throw at you, even as you juggle numerous assignments for different modules. With a Grade Point Average (GPA) system, your results are determined through your performance over three years. One bad semester can heavily influence your GPA.
And worst of all? If you’re unlucky enough, you have to deal with the condescending relatives, ever ready to flaunt their scholastic child’s academic achievements as they demean yours.
“JC is better than Poly” is an outdated idea.
Employment prospects for fresh Poly graduates are promising – from 2016 to 2018, the percentage of Poly graduates finding jobs within six months of graduation remained consistently high, over 85%. Average starting salaries have also been increasing – from $1,950 in 2012 to $2,350 in 2018, according to two joint surveys conducted by the five polytechnics in 2012 and 2018.
If a Poly graduate wants to head to university, there are more opportunities, too - such as the new “through-train” programme – allowing Poly students to secure a place in a local university and graduate one year earlier than their peers. During admission, local universities will no longer look at a Poly student’s O-Level results. They will be evaluated by their GPA – a more accurate representation of their skills and diversity of talent. This also favours Poly students with N-Level certificates and late bloomers who did not do well in secondary school. In 2017, about one-third of university students were from a polytechnic, up from one-fourth in 2012.
So, if you have a passion for a specific industry, going to a Poly can equip you with the technical knowledge you need to excel in the field and better prepare you for working life. But if you’re still figuring out where you want to go, the broader selection of subjects in a JC can give you time to explore your choices.
There isn’t a “better” path, but there is one that will suit you better.