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The Dilemma: JC or Poly

The author is a fresh JC graduate who has many friends in the polytechnics.

If you’re reading this, you have most likely just gotten back your O Level results and are contemplating if you are better suited for the Junior College (JC) or Polytechnic (Poly) route. This article aims to do a side-by-side comparison of consideration factors pertinent to you students so that you can make a more informed decision.

A Table of Comparison between Life in JC and Poly:

Time spent2 years3 years
Degree of Freedom✓ Compulsory school uniform

✓   Attendance strictly enforced

✓   No dress code

✓   Attendance loosely enforced

Local University Admission Rate70%17%
Curriculum✓   MOE-crafted

✓   Broad-based and academic

✓   School’s autonomy

✓   Industry-relevant

Mode of LearningTheoretical and conceptualHands-on and applied
Assessment Style✓   One mega A Level examinations✓   Cumulative grade point average
Time Spent Studying Per WeekAverage of 40 hoursAverage of 25 hours

Table based on data from http://digitalsenior.sg/is-jc-or-polytechnic-a-better-option-a-comparison/

Pros and Cons of the JC Route

I’m sure all of you have heard that JC can be very stressful, but it does come with its perks that sometimes far outweigh that of which Polys can offer. JCs follow an MOE-crafted broad-based and academic curriculum which goes deep into each of your chosen subjects. This is also more in line with the rigour of university courses.

Every year, about 70% JC students make it into local universities. Anecdotally, 17% Poly students who made it to local universities admitted that they faced considerable difficulties in keeping up with the pace in universities.

JCs are also a better alternative for students who want to keep their options open, or are still undecided, instead of diving headfirst into one specific course or career.

However, these perks do come with a catch. JCs are notoriously known to be very taxing. The shorter 2-year JC curriculum means the route to university is accelerated in all sense of the word. It is a mad rush for JC students almost every day. The holidays in JC are much shorter as well. As such, 10 times more JC students switch to Polys compared to Poly students going the other way round.[1]

[1] http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/why-some-students-gladly-traded-a-place-in-junior-college-for-polytechnic

Pros and Cons of the Poly Route

Polys on the other hand offer a less regimental school life as students are allowed more freedom in terms of dress code and attendance enforcement. Many argue that the Poly life is less stressful as Poly students are assessed on their understanding in bite-sized modules. The modular grades contribute to an overall Poly grade-point-average (GPA). In this aspect, Poly students technically should start working hard during Year 1.

Polys are also a great option for students who have set their mind to a specific course and its career prospects and would like to pursue it wholeheartedly. Poly offers a chance for its students to build up their portfolio and pick up industry-relevant skills earlier than their JC counterparts. It is, however, imperative for students to research intensively if acquiring these skills and portfolio earlier is advantageous.

The Polys are not all a bed of roses. The gateway for polytechnic graduates to local university is narrower at only 17%. Another dampening fact is that many Poly students realise in the middle of their courses that they have chosen the wrong course. This could be attributed to the fact that many 16-year-olds are still not mature enough to do substantial research on the course and its career prospects and end up regretting their choices later on. Conversely, JC students can have an extra 2 years to decide their career options.


Students don’t grasp new information the first time they hear it, or even the second time. They need the information to be reviewed again and again, presented in different ways. Most students will know the information after the third time it is taught, but they may need to have their memories refreshed periodically in order to retain the knowledge permanently.

We hope to provide three guiding questions to aid your decision.

  • Do you aspire towards a university education?
  • Do you have a clear passion and inclination for specific careers?
  • What is your preferred learning and assessment mode?

You have to do the homework in answering these questions truthfully. Do not be influenced too strongly by your current groups of friends as our education and career aspirations should be individualistic.

Oh, and in case you are thinking which route is the slacker option to get to the local university – you may want to stop your wishful thinking. At first glance, JC route seems tedious. However the Poly GPA system is activated since Day 1 in Poly. You simply have to work hard if you want to enrol in a local university.

All the best in deciding which suits you better!