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Shorter poly diplomas for JC graduates, aptitude-based admissions in universities from 2020

Shorter poly diplomas for JC graduates, aptitude-based admissions in universities from 2020

Students sit at a common area in NUS. (File photo: Darius Boey)

SINGAPORE: A-Level students who will graduate this year and want to move on to polytechnics could see their diploma courses shortened by up to a year, said the Ministry of Education on Thursday (Jan 30).

From October this year, A-Level graduates can be exempted from up to two semesters in 56 polytechnic courses if they fulfil the necessary module requirements, said the ministry in a media release. 

One example is Republic Polytechnic’s Diploma in Engineering Design with Business. A-Level graduates may be exempt from modules on Mathematics, Physics and Engineering Design if they have obtained passes in H2 Mathematics and H1 Physics.

The total number of polytechnic courses offering exemptions of at least one semester will also increase to 120.

Since 2019, eligible A-Level students have been allowed mid-year entry to about 110 polytechnic courses, and exemptions from modules depending on their A-Level subjects, shortening their diploma course from three years to two-and-a-half years.

With the new measures, an A-Level graduate could start Year Two of his or her polytechnic course in October of the same year, and graduate with a diploma two years later. About 200 A-Level graduates are admitted to the polytechnics each year. 

Making the announcement at the Applied Learning Conference on Thursday at Marina Bay Sands, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung acknowledged that many A-Level graduates do not find polytechnics attractive "because it takes too long".

Illustrating this with an example, he noted that if a student does not successfully apply to an autonomous university after graduating from junior college and wishes to switch to a polytechnic, he or she has already missed the admissions window and can only enroll in April the following year. 

"Thereafter she will undergo three years of polytechnic education. In total, she would have taken about 6.5 years to attain a diploma after graduating from secondary school. And to many A-Level students, that is just too long," said Mr Ong.

Noting that the mid-year entry launched last year has received positive feedback from students and parents, Mr Ong said that the reduction of the course duration for A-Level students "does not compromise the quality" of the diploma education. 

"Students will only receive module exemptions if they have met the necessary grades for their A-Level subjects. They will also need to complete the same graduation requirements as the other polytechnic students, such as internships and overseas exposure," he said.

Interested A-Level graduates can apply directly to the polytechnics for the 120 courses in mid-August this year, for matriculation in October, and further details will be announced in March. 


From the 2020 intake, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) will assess more students with aptitude-based admissions across as many courses as possible, Mr Ong announced. 

This takes the place of the universities' standalone discretionary admissions schemes.

"To enable more porosity across pathways, our admissions system needs to rely less on academic grades, and more on other meritorious yardsticks, so that a fuller range of an individual's aptitude and attributes can be taken into account,” he said. 

Under the current discretionary admissions scheme at NUS, NTU and SMU, the three institutions can admit up to 15 per cent of the annual intake based on factors beyond general academic grades, said the education ministry. 

The three institutions already do this today for a range of courses including architecture, dentistry and medicine, to "identify students who possess the relevant skills, competencies and passion to do well in their courses".

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) already practice aptitude-based admission for all their students, said the ministry. 


Polytechnics and ITE colleges will also shorten the working experience required for part-time Nitec, Higher Nitec or Workforce Qualification (WSQ) diploma holders to enroll in full-time courses from their 2021 intakes, Mr Ong announced.

From 2021, these students can take on full-time diplomas at the polytechnics and ITE Colleges with one year of work experience instead of two, as is the case now. 

“We hope this will provide more upgrading options for our working adults, and encourage them to come back to school to pick up new skills,” he said. 

“This will also change the dynamics and atmosphere at the polytechnics – there will be more students who are working adults, and I think it will make class more interesting.”

From the 2021 intake, working adults with at least two years of relevant work experience can also be considered for admission to part-time polytechnic diploma and Technical Engineering Diploma (TED) Technical Diploma (TD) programmes, said the ministry. Today, they can only be considered for admission to full-time polytechnic diplomas. 

As a result, there will be “some tightening” of the academic requirements for entry into part-time polytechnic diplomas for Higher Nitec holders “to align with other diploma-level programmes”, the ministry said in the release. 

Individuals who do not meet the higher academic requirement can still be considered for admission by discretionary admission processes or after accumulating two years of working experience, and more details will be made available before the 2021 admission exercises. 

“Essentially, with technological advancement, humans are increasingly valued for our technical and soft skills, rather than deep content knowledge. These skills cannot be picked up purely off books and papers, but are honed through years of on-the-job practice, improvisation, and continual learning,” said Mr Ong, adding that different pathways are needed to support the development of these skills.

“But having different pathways is not enough. They are like different expressways, bringing us to different destinations. 

“But we also need smaller roads connecting the expressways and pathways together, so that if you decide to switch from one to another, it is possible to do so, even if it means spending more time on your journey.” 

Source: CNA/hw(hm)


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