In the past, there was no debate about JC and poly: once you completed your O’ levels, you went straight to junior college; complete your A’ levels, and you were off to the university. Parents didn’t see the second option of attending a Polytechnic because it was a commonly held belief that those whose attended poly were either academically challenged or couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ tertiary education. Now, all that has changed: poly is as viable an option as JC.
Though the JC vs. poly debate still rages on, it can’t be denied that the previous views held about polys have changed. Now it is actually more difficult to get into poly to study the course of your choice than it is to get into JC. Still, there are people for and against on both sides. You might hear that JC is the better option for your child because JC will give your child a greater opportunity to get into the university; then another set of people will tell you that there is a lot of work to do in preparation for the A’ levels even with extra tuition lessons. Then you have the poly, a place where your child can go to study in a more hands-on, independent environment, and leave with the practical knowledge that will ensure that they are experts in their field.
JC or poly? It is a difficult decision to make. Before you choose, weigh the pros and cons of both institutions and consider them carefully.
The Junior College lasts for about two years. This means that your child will spend two years in JC, and then take their A’ levels and gain entry into the university if they pass.
Polytechnic lasts for three years. This is an additional one year extra for the students to complete their studies.
The differences in cost vary greatly for JCs and polys. Most JCs cost less than $10 a month, with the exceptional cases of independent JCs, such as the Raffles Junior College. These independent JCs can cost you up to $300 a month. Depending on the course, fees in a polytechnic can cost anywhere from $200 to $300; but there are hidden costs as well.
Transportation for JC students is cheap since they pay concession fees just like secondary school students. For Polytechnic students, you need to pay adult fares unless you buy a concession scheme.
Buying food in the JC canteens is much cheaper than in polys because polys have upscale cafes lined up at their entrances. Also, JCs have uniforms for their students, eliminating the need to change clothes every day. Polys don’t have uniforms; which means more money from your bank account to dress differently each day.
JCs are known for their heavy workload and rigorous academic life. With the A’ levels just around the corner, it can get quite difficult to manage studies and CCAs and prepare for the A’ levels. The average number of hours spent a week studying in JCs is 40.
Polys are less rigorous in their academic pursuit, favouring a more hands-on approach. Study hours on average are 25 a week, and some courses may even have fewer study hours. Some poly courses are as rigorous as JC courses -and polys tend to give their students a lot of projects to do and present- but you will have more free time for recreational activities in a poly than in a JC.
Courses and Subjects
JCs offer various subjects and courses, and they allow you to pick your subjects and mix and match them to suit your preferences. Subjects include Math, Economics, Biology, Chemistry, etc. These subjects are not taught to give your child real-world skills, but rather to train them to have very sharp analytical and logical: the subjects are mostly theoretical and are less ‘applied’, less practical. Also, there is less project work, and you can study independently.
Polys have highly specialized courses, such as Biomedical Engineering, Biomedical Science, etc. The courses taught in polys are meant to give your child real-world skills: they are practical and ‘applied’, thus equipping your child with the relevant skills needed to get employed once they graduate. As such, polys provide internship opportunities for students to enhance their portfolio. As there is a lot of project work in polys, teamwork is greatly emphasized and encouraged.
The student life in JC doesn’t vary so much from that in secondary school. You get to wear a uniform, and you get to meet people of roughly the same background as you. The student life in JC is your typical student life.
In polys, the student life gives you a glimpse into what university life is like. You can miss classes without anyone questioning you for it (though this is not advisable), and no one but the parents cares if your grades are poor. Also, there is no uniform, so there is a sense of freedom there (unless you are overly conscious about your looks). If you want to go to the university from the poly, you will need to discipline yourself to study on Saturdays, because no one is going to make you do so. It is more about dealing with your responsibilities and your newfound freedom.
Going to a JC means you will need to complete your A’ levels, so that entrance into the university is assured. It used to be difficult for poly students to get into university -with 17% of poly students getting into the university as opposed to 75% of JC students getting into the university- but that has changed now. Poly students stand as good a chance of getting in the university as JC students do. You can increase your chance by engaging a private tutor.
The pros and cons of attending JC or poly are actually balanced: the choice lies with you. Depending on what your child wants to study, either institution would be a good fit for him or her. First, you have to decide what it is they want to do in the future, as this will give you an idea of what courses they will need to take, and this, in turn, will guide your decision as to whether to enter a JC or a Polytechnic.
For a more relatable article, you may like to check out Getting Ready for Your GCE O Level Results 2017?