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Should I Choose Junior College or Polytechnic

The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights – Joe Andrew

Since we were young kids we have been asked this question over and over again by our family, friends, and teachers “What do you want to become when you grow up?” For some, the answer was very clear in their minds and remained constant while for others the answer kept changing over the years. But after we finish our N-level or 0-level exams is when we really need to be sure of our career choices and work towards it.

Deciding between Junior college (JC) and Polytechnic (Poly) is the first hurdle that we need to cross to achieve our ultimate career goal. But both these options are equally good and have their pros and cons which make it a very difficult decision to make. In this article, we will shed some light on both JC and Polytechnic education in Singapore which would help you make an informed decision while choosing your path.


Let’s start with the basics and understand both these options in detail.

Junior College

Junior College in Singapore is a 2 years program offered to students after they complete secondary school. Students have a choice between the two streams Science and Arts but are required to take one contrasting subject, for example, a science student would have to select an Arts subject and vice-versa. Apart from these subjects, one mother tongue language is mandatory but if a student has taken the Higher Mother Tongue language paper at the O-level and has obtained a minimum grade of 'D7' they are exempted from taking formal MTL lessons and examinations but would still need to attend MTL-related enrichment.

The subjects are categorized into levels – Higher 1 (H1), Higher 2 (H2) and Higher 3 (H3) with each of them carry points known as Academic Unit (AU). H1 papers carry one AU, H2 carries 2 AU and H3 carries 1 AU but is offered to students who are academically capable to deal with with this additional subject. H3 subjects are a complimentary subject to the H2 subjects providing more in-depth and advance learning. The advantage of taking an H3 subject is that the students can get an exemption in university for certain modules based on the course and module taken.

The general subject combination is 3 H2 subjects and 1 H1 subject or 4 H2 subjects along with the 3 mandatory subjects Mother tongue language, Project work, and General paper or Knowledge & Inquiry making it a total of a minimum of 10 AU (3H2+1H1+1MTL+1PW+1GP/KI) and a maximum of 12 AU (4H2+1H3+1MTL+1PW+1GP/KI). The students at the end of the 2 years give the Singapore GCE Cambridge A-Level examinations and based on the scores apply to universities.


A polytechnic in Singapore offers students a 3 years program with a variety of courses to choose from. Students can specialize in the field they are interested in and need not study any other subjects. The focus of polytechnics is to provide hands-on and practice-based learning. Internships or work attachments are an integral part of polytechnics ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months or even more for some courses.

These work attachments give the students a flavor of the industry and provide on-the-job training by industry experts. In polytechnics, more emphasis is given on the application of the knowledge than just the theory hence there a lot of projects for the students to work on.

This experience also helps them improve their soft skills like communication and presentation skills, creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, team-work, and other such life skills. After completing the course, the students are well-trained to join the workforce or sign up for a master's in the polytechnic itself or the university.


Every individual is different and so are their ways of reaching their goals. When it comes to picking either JC or Poly, remember it is totally your call. You are the best judge as you are the only one who is completely aware of your capabilities. We have listed certain parameters to consider that might help you select your calling.

  1. Duration: Depending on the time you want to invest in your studies and how eager you are to join the workforce, you can select between JC and Poly. If you want to continue your further studies and go to university, JC will give you a higher chance of getting in. As stats shows, 75% of students are from JC in local universities and only 17% from polytechnics. Polytechnic also gives you an option to join the workforce immediately after you graduate.
  2. Stress level: Take into consideration how much stress can you handle. In JC the number of subjects to study is more and diverse. One needs to balance their academics as well as CCAs. They follow a packed timetable from Monday to Friday. There could be less time for self-study that could increase the stress levels during exams. Whereas in Polytechnic it's more relaxed and students get a lot of time to pursue extra-curricular activities.
  3. Learning Preference: Do you like being policed or do you prefer studying at your leisure. In JC your teachers would keep a close eye on you and your performance and actively keep your parents in the loop. While in Polytechnic students need to take self-initiative and discipline to excel. There won't be any hand-holding and involves a lot of self-study.
  4. Career plans: Choose the right path based on your career plans. If you are still unsure you can opt for JC as it still keeps a lot of avenues open. Polytechnic offers more specialized courses.   

Every option has two sides with no wrong or right. Both JC and Polytechnic have their pros and cons and you have to weigh them to judge what suits you the most. The old belief of JC being for the top-performing students and polytechnic is for those who failed to get into JC is now changed.

Students and parents both are changing their mindset and choosing the option best suited for them. Always think about what you want to do in the future and pick the right option.

Read how this Hwa Chong student leave JC 4 months before A-level to pursue passion in Poly.


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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.