Why polytechnics continue to draw in over 20,000 students a year

15 Jan 2024

In 2017, when MOE announced the merger of some JCs because of declining birth cohorts, some wondered if the same fate awaited polytechnics. At that time, the polytechnics were taking in about 20,000 students a year and the five institutions located in different parts of the island were known for their sprawling campuses and state-of-the-art facilities. Fast forward seven years and the worries seem unfounded. MOE figures show that about 21,000 students enrolled in the five polytechnics in 2023 to take up full-time diploma studies. The make-up of students has also changed. In the past, most of those joining polytechnics were secondary school students, with many taking this route because they did not make the cut for the JCs. Now, they comprise secondary school students across the spectrum, those from ITE and the junior colleges, and working adults. The polytechnic courses in engineering, applied sciences, healthcare, business, computing and the creative arts are constantly reviewed and updated to keep up with the fast-paced technological and economic changes happening around the world. Apart from better salaries and prospects, another shift is also encouraging people to take the polytechnic route. Mindsets have changed and polytechnics are now seen as a vehicle of choice, embraced by students, the industry and even parents. Students also appreciate the variety of pathways that can lead them to polytechnics. More aptitude-based admissions, where the school looks beyond grades and at a student’s interests, have also made polytechnics more attractive. Ms Pearlyn Tan, who managed to get into SP to take up a diploma course in music and audio technology after working for a few years as a DJ, agreed that she wouldn’t have made it based on her O-level results alone.

[The Straits Times]

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