O levels or Integrated Programme?
Parents and students have to weigh the pros and cons, say experts
Christine Toh, now 17, scored over 260 points in her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which meant she qualified for the Integrated Programme (IP).
The programme allows secondary school students to proceed to junior college without taking the O-levels.
But Christine chose to take the O-level route at Ngee Ann Secondary School.
The primary reason for her choice was that Ngee Ann Secondary offered a co-curricular activity (CCA) called jam band.
Students in jam band improvise and play covers of pop and rock songs, as well as create their own compositions.
She said: "I was interested in jam band and that school was one of the few that offered it."
Experts in education told The New Paper that parents and students should have other considerations beyond their PSLE results when choosing either the O-levels or IP route.
They added that both routes have their pros and cons that parents and students should take into account, together with the child's learning style and abilities.
National University of Singapore lecturer Kelvin Seah said: "The first thing to consider is whether the student is more interested in receiving a broad-based academic education or one which is more hands on and industry-relevant - that is whether the student would like to pursue a polytechnic education or not."
He added that the IP system frees up time for students to explore non-academic interests and activities, and might reduce stress since they do not take a major exam so early.
Dr Jason Tan from policy and leadership studies at the National Institute of Education (NIE) said: "One consideration of the IP is that it's a through train and it's hard to drop out halfway if you want. It depends on how parents see it. It can also be tricky to change schools if the child is in a six-year programme."
He added: "Parents and children should be weighing both options even before the results come out."
Christine, who is now in Victoria Junior College, does not regret her choice.
She said: "I enjoyed my secondary school life a lot. Music is my hobby and a getaway from academic life, so jam band was very good for me. I could really explore my interests. I was also given the opportunity to be a leader, by becoming the president of the student council and planning the secondary 1 orientation from scratch."
Siti Nurjaslina Jeffry, 17, also chose to take the O-level route at Fuhua Secondary School, after scoring 260 in her PSLE.
She said: "I felt that the pace of learning will suit me better. As much as my education is important to me, I did not want to overstress myself. I believe the O-level path will also provide me with more time and space to grow and pursue other interests." She joined the Malay Language Cultural Society and learnt performing arts there.