What is Next after the O-Levels?

Thinking of your pathway after completing your O-Levels? Here in Singapore there are two popular choices- Junior College or Polyethnic.

There are both pros and cons to which path you and your child choose depending on what interest your child has. Back in 2020 when Monkey Boy graduated from his secondary school. He had the choice of choosing to enter the Polytechnic , Junior college or even the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme with his straight As.

(For those who are not very familiar with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) it is one which leads directly into university and is seen as a better pathway for academically brilliant kids as more universities overseas recognise this qualification as compared to A-Levels. )

After much consideration he chose to go to Polytechnic instead to pursue his interest in Computer studies. This was his reasoning back then for choosing to go to Polytechnic.

No to International Baccalaureate Diploma
– Having to study the core subjects below which are very theoretically based on top of Computer Science

  • Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.
  • The extended essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
  • Creativity, activity, service, in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.

Monkey boy felt that the curriculum was very dry and he didn’t want to have to subject himself to just regurgitating theory and doing countless tests and exams in a classroom setting.

No to Junior College
He felt that what he would be learning in Junior College may not be relevant to what he wants to know as there are only two possible selections – Arts or Science stream. He would have to continue learning Chinese and have to wear a uniform to school. The workload is very heavy in JC and being in another regimental institute would be too stifling for him. To be in such a regimented environment for another 2 years will certainly hamper his creativity and growth.

I let him decide on his own and made it clear that he had to be responsible for his own decision at that point of time.

My Opinion

I felt that Polytechnic would be the best option for him as firstly he would be graduating with a Diploma and have some industrial experience with the internship that they have in Year 3. There will be more time for him to continue with a more rounded education as he will still have time to pursue his interests in music besides just solely focusing on academics. I also heard how rigid it is in junior college whereby what you are learning may be so dated that it can’t be really applied in the real world if you do decide to come out and work straight after A-Levels. The bottom line was that Monkey boy didn’t have interest to go for a very academic route where he had to study ” irrelevant” subjects to him. I personally feel that he would be better equip to enter the workforce in time to come if he had more practical experience and chance to pursue his passion in computing directly.

It has been 3 years since he made this decision and he is now doing really well in his chosen course in Polytechnic topping the whole cohort in his course and making it to the dean’s list two years in a row. He certainly does not regret the decision not to go to JC or do IB as he is flourishing in Poly. In fact the trend nowadays is to go to Poly rather then JC for most of my friends kids.

Which pathway would you choose ?

Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School
4) What Next after the N- Levels?

5) What Next after the O-Levels?

6) Subject Based Banding (SBB) and Me

From 4 to 8 subjects in Secondary School

Moving from 4 to 8 subjects

Congradulations you have just finished your PSLE and successfully entered secondary school. It is no longer a hand holding 1st day of school for you. Nope, your parents can’t and won’t be around on standby to see if you are adapting well to the new environment and there is no buddy for you now.

You are 12 turning on 13 and it is time to exert your independence. You have to handle navigating this new study environment by yourself. It is all up to you now. Good luck!!

Looking at the number of subjects that one has to take in secondary 1 can be mind boggling. From four examinable subject you now have 8 examinable subjects to handle. The addition of subjects like Geography, History, Literature, Food and Consumer Education and Design and Technology can be overwhelming. You may ask how do they fit in so many subjects within the existing time table. To figure out this question let us look at the typical week time table.

A Primary 6 Time Table.

As you can see above the typical school day starts from 7.45am to 1.30pm on most days. On the day that the students have CCA they are dismissed 15 minutes earlier to facilitate lunch and change over. The majority of the lesson time in a day is distributed between English, Maths and Mother Tongue ( Mandarin, Tamil or Malay). Now compare with the time table of a lower secondary student below.

A Lower Secondary Time Table

It gets more complicated once your child enters secondary school. The time table is now split into even week and odd weeks where there will be slight changes in the time table. With the addition of home based learning(HBL) one day every forthright it is amazing how both the students and teachers can keep track on what is to be scheduled for the week. I certainly be stressed out trying to juggle the ever changing schedule on a weekly basis. It is really mind boggling.

Since there isn’t a great extension of periods in the time table there is lesser time allocated to the 4 core subjects (English, Maths, Science, Mother Tongue) with the addition of Geography, History, Literature , Food and Consumer Education/ Design & Technology. Independent learning is emphasied and strongly encouraged. This is a challenge for most students as they are so used to have everything planned for them. They are not use to taking charge, design and follow a self-designed schedule. It is certainly stressful and many find it hard to cope. What then can we do to prepare our child for these changes?

Study Tips

  1. Review your work weekly.
    At the end of the week do look through what has been taught. It does help to make notes of keywords and concepts that have to be memorised to make it easier for one to focus on for the subject.
  2. Do a learning planner
    What I have found effective for myself and my students is to set aside at least half and hour to an hour a day to do the following
    – check off items on the to-do-list which was set for the day.
    -review the difficult concepts/ problems that were handled on the day.
    – block off hours in a week for learning and review.

It may take time to get use to the adjustments in the school time table and to develop new effective routines. Give your child a few months to settle down once you enter secondary school. The time taken to adjust properly will certainly help them and they won’t be so stressed after awhile.

In the next post I will be sharing with you the apps and videos that my boys have been using to keep on top of things during their secondary school education.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Surviving-the-Secondary-Years-1024x1024.jpg

Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School