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No plans to align polytechnic academic calendar with primary and secondary schools: Chan Chun Sing

No plans to align polytechnic academic calendar with primary and secondary schools: Chan Chun Sing

File photo of Singapore Polytechnic. (Image: Screengrab from Google Maps)

SINGAPORE: There are currently no plans to align the polytechnic academic calendar with that of primary and secondary schools, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing told Parliament on Wednesday (Oct 5).

"The polytechnic calendar also takes into consideration when students enrol into their courses," he said. "There are, however, overlaps between the term breaks of our schools and polytechnics."

Mr Chan was responding to a question by Member of Parliament Wan Rizal (PAP-Jalan Besar), who asked whether the ministry had plans to review the semester breaks for polytechnics and align them with primary and secondary schools.

Unlike the academic calendars of primary and secondary schools that broadly follow a calendar year, polytechnics usually start their academic year in April and end it in March the next year.

Polytechnics have long semester vacations in the months of September and October, as well as March and April, unlike the June and December school holidays for primary and secondary schools. However, polytechnics also have short term breaks in June and December.

But Dr Wan Rizal, an academic staff member at Republic Polytechnic, noted how students in continuing education and training (CET) programmes spend the month of December going for lessons.

CET programmes, some of which are offered in polytechnics, usually involve adult learners studying part-time for a higher diploma or professional certificate.

"This means that for us to encourage them to do a part-time diploma and have a work-life balance, this means sacrificing their December holidays and in the spirit of celebrating families and supporting (them), I think this is something that we are missing," Dr Wan Rizal said.

"Now the staff, of course, have to do the markings in December, which means they are usually affected. Of if they are teaching the CET students, like I do, we do not get the December holidays as a whole."

Polytechnic full-time diploma students also take mid-semester tests in the first few weeks of December, although they then have a two-week break until the new year.

Dr Wan Rizal asked if the ministry would consider "blocking off the December holidays completely" to allow staff and students to recuperate and spend time with their families.

Mr Chan said short modular courses and workforce skills qualifications, like those in CET programmes, have a more flexible programme schedule and are not necessarily aligned to the academic calendars used in longer programmes.

"This better meets the needs of the adult learners who have to juggle both work and learning," he said.

Dr Wan Rizal speaking in Parliament on Oct 4, 2022.

Mr Chan detailed how the ministry determines when "different parts of society" should go for breaks, saying that primary schools, secondary schools and post-secondary schools will have different needs.

"I think it may also not necessarily be the best idea for all of us to say that all of them should take their breaks together and align it as such," he said.

"It is quite difficult for us to therefore have one model that fits everything. And I'm quite sure that even if we do align it, there will be other challenges as well."

Mr Chan said the ministry has to consider the different learning needs of each population segment. For instance, he said institutes of higher learning - which includes polytechnics - have to consider when their students can go for internships.

"In fact, in more recent times, I have also urged our IHLs (institutes of higher learning) to move away from what we rigidly think of as a term time and break time," he said.

"Because that may not be necessarily the best way for us to fit the internship opportunities into the working environment that is required by the participating companies. Companies would like to have interns according to their business needs rather than just their academic calendar."

Source: CNA/hz(gs)
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