Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Get poly students into university
Singapore risks losing talent if there are not enough local varsity places
By Amelia Tan
THE difference between junior college (JC) and polytechnic students is now so slight that it may come down to little more than what they wear to school.
Just ask Singapore Polytechnic graduate Kuriakin Zeng, who recently landed himself a spot at Harvard University.
But even as we celebrate how a polytechnic education has won the stamp of approval from one of the most prestigious names in higher education, perhaps it's also time we thought about whether local universities are making enough space for the polytechnics' brightest.
It is clear that polytechnics are no longer just turning out cohorts that are job- ready.
The proportion of them who win places in the three local universities has gone up from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, or about 2,500 places, a year.
Yet the limited places set aside for them each year - 20 per cent when classes begin at the new Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Technology and Design - will leave a sizeable group of above-average diploma holders without a way to get a local university education.
Education Minister Ng Eng Hen explained in a recent interview that it is not the aim of the Government to keep raising the university population, as countries which do so often find that their graduates are not up to mark.
Dr Ng did say that the Government is prepared to set aside more university places for poly students in the future, if they meet the standard.
The question is: Will the increase come fast enough and will it be big enough?
For many poly graduates turned away by the local universities, the alternative is an overseas education. But this is an expensive route with no guarantee of financial aid, let alone scholarships.
Now that the polytechnics draw fully a third of students who qualify for JCs but choose them instead, perhaps it is time they recharted their mission: not only to train competent workers but also to prepare the cohorts for degree programmes.
Such a new goal would match the changing aspirations of poly students. And it would also send a clear signal to the Government and local universities that poly graduates are gunning for a degree and are as deserving as their JC peers.
If places for poly students in the local universities do not keep pace with a steadily growing number of high performers, more students will have to head overseas.
Which in turn leads to: Some may not come back and that talent may then be lost to Singapore.
The education system has to evolve not only to meet the needs of the economy but also to fit the changing motivations and ambitions of students.
There is no merit in lowering the bar so that standards are compromised. But is there any in holding back talent wishing to go as high as it can?

No offends to anyone but I honesty think that Singapore is a bit bias towards JC students.Take the transportation as an example.Why do Poly students have to pay the adult fare?They are also studying like any other students out there.Not bashing anyone in particular but it does not mean that all JC students are smart.There are smart Poly students too.I meant,take a look at those who are eligible for JC.Majority chose to go Poly instead.
I am not saying that the education system is bad or whatsoever.I just hope that everyone will get a fair chance to earn their places.

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