Polytechnic education has achieved leaps and bounds ever since Ong Ye Kung has been the Education Minister. The latest numbers show that up to 30% of the Poly in-take go on to study at a local university. Making matters more interesting, the makeup of Poly students has improved over the years with a significant increase of students who would have made it to a JC program with their O level grades.
This presents a sea-change in the calculus of choosing the right academic track and I'm starting to imagine my own children coming up to me in their teens to convince me to support their polytechnic ambitions in the future. One glaring reason to skip a JC and go Poly is CL2, which is as fun as having a root canal for potato-eating Singaporeans like me. Also, my daughter can also doll-up in a Polytechnic setting instead of going to a lecture in school uniform.
For all these reasons, you might expect a parent like me to simply just support my child's wishes, but I am thinking of doing the opposite. I'm thinking that if my kids want to study in a Polytechnic, I may opt to bribe them to take the JC track instead. This is not a small bribe. I fully expect this to be around $100,000 in tomorrow's dollars to balance the hardship between a JC and the Polytechnic program for a discerning teenager.
I detail my reasons below :
a) Polytechnic education is now very relevant with the existing industry
As the government ramps up Poly education, they will try to align closely with industry so that students will be able to hit the ground running. From my point of view, this is totally meaningless because industries do not last very long in the future economy. Imagine a bomb hitting the Singaporean economy and all jobs are lost, having bankable skills with a diploma would be meaningless because we will all be on Universal Basic Income.
But a JC student using his writing skills learnt in GP class can whine much louder to the government. He can put his suffering in a different framework and become more philosophical over the dystopia he is in.
While a Polytechnic prepares a student for industry, a JC prepares a student for a society where there is no industry.
b) Polytechnic education teaches practical skills to students to solve real-world problems
Once upon a time, I served an IT vendor in support of a financial exchange. The trading system went down and my highly skilled diploma-trained engineers recommended we restart the trading service. The unskilled but terribly overqualified manager in charge of us from the customer-end (who enjoyed reminding me of his scholar status) insisted we troubleshoot the issue even though we do not believe the root cause to be on the infrastructure end. We troubleshot for hours and exacerbated the outage.
In the end, my diploma-trained engineers were proven right, bouncing the application service solved the issue and trading resumed. A few days later this asshole manager told his CIO that even though we were technically right, we were wrong because we failed to convince him to bounce the application.
Practical skills are worthless in the real world. The real skill is in negating practical skills with trash talk in the real world.
This guy is an ex-scholar. I'm pretty sure he has an A-level cert.
I rest my case.
c) Polytechnic lecturers empathise with students and treat them like human beings
One of my favourite Maths teachers in NJC set such a tough Further Maths exam that moderation was set at 20% and over 50 students tried to drop the subject after failing it. We were so traumatised, the Maths department even conducted an intervention to stop the massive exodus of students from taking the subject. I felt that teacher meant well, because until that test we took, we thought we were Math geniuses.
Most JC students today will say that nothing in University matches the stress level of the A level exam. I continue to have nightmares of taking exams during my JC days but never in Law or Engineering school. But there is an upside, whenever I look at some AI algorithm and think about tensors and matrix manipulation, I think about A level Further Maths in NJC and all the resistance to pick up these new coding skills disappears.
In all my personal engagements with polytechnic lecturers on the other hand, I find them actually are quite encouraging. One professor in SP even told me that he loves making them feel good about themselves.
I'm sorry, empathy, love and words of encouragement, is actually not appropriate for my children.
This is not the Five Love Languages.
If my kids go Poly, they will never understand what it is like to be forced to drop a subject they love because it may drag down the JC's overall results. They may never experience the differential treatment of ordinary students against students who study H3 or S-level papers or the jadedness of a JC tutor.
In the end, it is the JC that truly reflects the capitalistic meritocracy of Singapore society and I prefer that they get a taste of it before getting out.
My final point is - as attractive as they are today, polytechnic graduates are in a rough patch. Recent graduates are not seeing salary increases and a larger proportion are joining the gig economy. But the government propaganda machines, orchestrated probably by a JC student, still has FB ads that look like this :
" I did not regret skipping JC to study XXX diploma, at XXX Polytechnic. "
These idiot scholars behind these silly campaigns don't get it.
REGRET is absolutely what needs to be experienced within the education system.
Along with PAIN, ANXIETY, DISAPPOINTMENT and SADNESS.
The A level track is all about these things.
So I am prepared to bribe my kids with $100,000 to learn all of that.
I reserve my right to change my mind. If you have a better argument or reasoning for your own kids, do share with me, but we can agree to disagree!