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Your post-secondary education options in Singapore

2020-04-07 11:32:55
Now that you have gotten your Secondary results, you’re probably already making plans about what you want do in the next stage of your life. Singapore’s education system offers many options for secondary school leavers. But before making any decision, take some time to consider your options carefully. Here is what Singapore offers to secondary school leavers

Upon completion of the 4- or 5-year secondary school education, students (excluding IP students) will participate in the annual Singaporean GCE "N" or "O" Level depending on their academic level, the results of latter will determine which pre-universities or post-secondary institutions they may apply for. 


Start by getting to know the different postsecondary educational institutions and see where your interests and strengths fit in. Pick a pathway that best suits your interests, abilities and passions. 


Let’s take a quick look at the options for “N” level students before we embark on the detailed options for “O” level students.


Options for “N” level leavers


1) Continue to study for GCE “O” Level


2) Polytechnic Foundation Program (PFP) 

This is an alternative to the Sec 5 year. PFP students are given provisional places in diploma programmes, subject to them passing all modules in the one-year PFP. The PFP caters to students of the Sec 4N(A) cohort in the preceding year. The PFP will have about 1,500 places set aside each year. It will be offered by all five Polytechnics. More than 80% of Polytechnic Diploma courses will be offered under the PFP.


3) Pursue a Nitec course in one of the 3 regional ITEs


Options for “O” level leavers


1) Junior Colleges/Millennia Institute

Most students are aiming for entry to a junior college (JC) after O levels. They will be enrolled in a two-year programme (except for Millennia Institute’s three-year programme) that will culminate in the A levels, which is the certification needed to get into a university.


There are 18 JCs* in Singapore. These include 14 Junior Colleges, Dunman High School and River Valley High School which offer the A-Level curriculum, and Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and St Joseph’s Institution which offer the International Baccalaureate.


Singapore-Cambridge A-Level curriculum is a holistic approach, which provides students with learning opportunities in three areas: life skills, knowledge and subject disciplines. It has over 100 different subjects, electives and CCAs


To gain access to a JC, you need to have an L1R5 aggregate of 20 or less s, or an L1R4 aggregate of 20 or less, for MI. 


But sitting for A levels is not easy. Compared to O levels, the competition is much tougher. Only a small percentage of high-flying students go on to local or prestigious overseas universities, while the rest continue their journey in private universities, not-so-prestigious overseas universities, or they back-track to poly.


Course fee

Singapore Citizen - About S$234 per year

International Students - Between S$1040 and S$1750 per year


2) Polytechnics

When you think your O level might be a huge milestone in your education life, there is much more to it. You most probably may find it a little tougher progressing in your career without, minimally, a diploma. Diploma is one of the popular options after O levels, which is to enrol in a polytechnic. 


There are 5 polytechnics in Singapore (Ngee Ann Polytechnics, Temasek Polytechnics, Singapore Polytechnics, Nanyang Polytechnics and Republic Polytechnics). 


A polytechnic education gives you hands-on experience within a dynamic and progressive learning environment. It also equips you with strong skills and competencies that will prepare you well for the workforce. There are more than 30 different courses in each polytechnic. You will find something that matches your interest.


In 2020, polytechnic graduates applying to Singapore's local universities will not need to include their O-level results. Only their polytechnic grade point average (GPA) will count towards the university admissions score they use in applying to the six publicly funded universities, except for certain courses with subject-specific requirements.


The two biggest institutions, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), will drop the current 20 per cent weighting given to O-level results for polytechnic graduate applicants, in a move to recognise their latest qualification and put them on a par with their peers from junior colleges.


To gain access to polytechnic. you should score 26 points or better for your net ELR2B2 aggregate score. (ELR2B2 refers to the English language, 2 relevant subjects, and best 2 other subjects, including CCA Bonus Points.) On top of that, you should meet the minimum poly entry requirements for the course that you are interested in. The minimum entry requirements vary from course to course.


You can take part in the Polytechnic Early Admissions Exercise (Poly EAE) conducted in June during your final year in secondary school if you are keen and passionate to pursue a certain course in polytechnic


Course fee

Singapore Citizen - About S$2900 per year

Internation Students - About S$10,800 per year


3) Private Diploma

If you cant meet the poly entry requirements above? Many students out there would opt to take a diploma from a private institution such as Kaplan, PSB Academy, MDIS, etc. The minimum entry requirements and courses fees vary from schools and courses


4) ITEs

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) aims to equip its students with the technical skills and knowledge to meet the workforce needs of various industry sectors. You will be able to discover and develop your talents, and acquire new skills through hands-on and interactive learning at the same time.


There are three regional ITE campuses in Singapore (College Central, College East, College West) More than 90 full-time Nitec and Higher Nitec courses are available for selection.


From there, you can also progress into your selected polytechnic course, provided you attain the minimum required Higher NITEC Grade Point Average (GPA). Indeed, this will be a long route to getting a diploma, and even a longer route if you’d like to obtain a degree. But don’t be discouraged; some people went from ITE to polytechnic and then to a local university.


To gain access to ITEs, you need to sit for at least 5 O-Level subjects over a maximum of 2 years.


Course Fee

Singapore Citizen - About S$626 per year

Internation Students - About S$20,480 per year


5) Arts Institution

For those with a deep interest in the arts, there are tertiary art schools that you should look into. The main ones would be LASALLE College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and School of the Arts (SOTA).


At these institutions, you can learn techniques and conceptualisation skills, to communicate your artistic vision. There are more than 40 diploma and degree courses. 


LASALLE and NAFA offer various diploma (and degree) programme in art, design, and such. You can gather some ideas on the specialisations of each institution based on the schools they have


SOTA has an integrated arts and academic curriculum: the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the IB Career-Related Programme (IBCP). Essentially, this means that students in SOTA will still study traditional subjects, though arts would be incorporated into their studies. 


The minimum entry requirements and courses fees vary from schools and courses. You will also need to pass an entrance test or audition, which may include performing a musical piece or submitting a portfolio. 


6) International Baccalaureate (IB)

IB, or International Baccalaureate, is an education programme based in Geneva, Switzerland. More than one million students worldwide go through the IB programme, so it’s a recognised pathway. The IB cert is another avenue for entry into worldwide universities including top-ranking ones like Oxford and Cambridge.


The IB programme promotes global-mindedness and is less Singapore-centric compared to the A levels. Instead of a deep emphasis on individual subjects, it focuses on educational well-roundedness. It also encourages critical thinking, research skills, and community involvement.


There are currently 36 private and state schools in Singapore, which offer one or more of the International Baccalaureate programmes.


There are four programmes

1. The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19

2. The Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 to 16

3. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students from 3 to 12.

4. The IB Career-Related Certificate (IBCC) for students 16 to 19


After O levels, qualified students can hop on the IB Diploma Programme, which is a two-year curriculum with a final exam.


Now that you’ve gathered the academic options after O levels, keep an eye out for the various admission routes that will get you to your preferred choice.

JCs, polytechnics and ITE have the usual Joint Admission Exercise, but you may also be able to get in through the Direct School Admission (for JC) and Early Admissions Exercise(for poly). For art institutions, you should apply directly.