Junior college (JC) or polytechnic (poly)?

The JC or poly decision is a constant debate that the graduating students of secondary schools have to address. Not only are the students themselves involved, so too are parents, teachers and friends.

Having had the privilege to engage thousands of students from the secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities through my workshops over the years, let me share my thoughts on this perennial topic. After all, I was also a product of Singapore’s education system.

In my opinion, there are 5 considering factors one should bear in mind before making that sacred choice between JC and poly.


Consideration #1: The Learning Environment 

In all respects, learning at JC is much more conceptual. It’s always about concepts and theories. So you really have to be someone who loves such stuff.

For poly, the focus is more about applied learning. There is direct relevance between study and work. It is an open secret that almost all poly courses now have a compulsory internship for Year 3 students ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months. In comparison, there is no internship for JC students.


Consideration #2: The Curriculum

Choose JC if you are the academic type and prefer to dive deeper into a content area (e.g. Science, Maths or Humanities). This offers you a wide range of options for university courses thereafter.

Choose poly if you are passionate about a specific area that is related to your career aspiration. Some secondary students know exactly what they like to dabble in (e.g. coding, model aeroplanes, video production etc) that leads them to choose a poly education as there are diploma courses that are directly related (e.g. Diploma in IT, Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering, Diploma in Film, Sound & Video).


Consideration #3: Future Aspirations

This is a big one.

JC students graduate with an “A” level certificate. And the premise is that it is a stepping stone to university. But I have seen “A” level students who fail to make it to the university. In other words, if you don’t make it to university, then the “A” level certificate is pretty much useless.

Poly students graduate with a diploma. And poly life prepares students for work life. While some poly graduates continue further studies at the university, a bigger portion of poly graduates start working immediately upon graduation. The yearly Graduate Employment Survey for poly graduates is testimony to this as it compares the drawing salaries of the different poly courses for graduates.

I have yet to see a Graduate Employment Survey for “A” Level grads.


Consideration #4: Time Management

I see a JC education as an extension of secondary school. Classes typically start and end at the same time everyday (excluding remedials and CCAs). You continue to wear a school uniform and engage in daily rituals like flag raising in the parade square.

JC students enjoy a structured time table, study the same subjects and take a summative examination twice a year. So if you are someone who loves things planned out for you, then go for it.

Poly students have more freedom to decide how they plan and use their time. There is no uniform so you have to decide what to wear each day. More importantly, there are foundation modules (in Year 1) and specialised ones (from Year 2 onwards). This means you really need to know your inclinations and manage your time wisely. The polys adopt a modular assessment setting (similar to universities).


Consideration #5: Working With Others

In JC, students stay with the same group of people throughout their two years. In this way, you can build stronger bonds.

In poly, students have to work on projects with different people. This is how the system works and will suit you to a T if you are a people-person.


At the end of the day, there will always be supporters of both the JC and poly education system. As an educator myself, I say perhaps the best way to help you make that final decision is to attend the open houses of both JCs and polys to see if you like what you see and can adapt well. Adaptability is important as you do not want to waste the next two or three years of your life feeling miserable.

All the best!


Like it or not, we will all become leaders one day as we climb the corporate ladder. That is a fact. Whether you have a team under you or you are mentoring a group of interns. 

Interestingly, leadership requires distinct behaviours and attitudes. It does not operate the same as how you may operate now.

Think about this - before you are a leader, success is all about growing your own career. But once you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

In this leadership branding workshop specially curated for the insurance industry, attendees included both the seasoned financial consultants and aspiring agency leaders.

So if you want to be a leader but you missed my sharing, fret not. Let me recap the 3 proven ways how you can build your leadership brand.


Tip #1: Know Your Leadership Style

As a leader (or aspiring one), you should first start by discovering your leadership style.

Different leaders lead differently. Some lead by example, others by encouragement and surprisingly, some by fear.

Knowing your leadership style is important because you need to know how you normally act and react to people. More importantly, knowing your leadership style allows you to adapt your style to different situations.

All leaders have a preferred leadership style. But do note that leadership styles are not static and should not be. All leaders should be adaptive and flexible to comfortably switch between styles. It depends on the situation, who’s involved and what’s at stake.

For example, when dealing with an imminent crisis, a leader should adopt a more directive style and not appear to be wishy-washy as the team is looking to him for leadership. 

When interacting with newer financial advisers or younger managers, a leader would be best off with a coaching style.

As a leader myself, I personally choose among three leadership styles which I can transit effortlessly.



Tip #2: Express Your Leadership Story

Ask yourself why people should choose to follow you instead of someone else.

If you cannot answer this question, then you must do some deep soul-searching.

All leaders have a brand story. What’s yours?

Each time you share your brand story, is it able to excite, captivate and attract the right audience? If yes, congratulations! Remember, you need to attract talents into your organization or agency (for this matter) in order to grow.

In between the breaks, I spoke to some financial consultants who were kind of shy to openly express their leadership brand story. But hey, if you remain shy, then you will be steamrolled by the other agency leaders out there. In any industry, competition is stiff…what more the insurance industry.

A good piece of homework you can work on is to craft your leadership brand story and say it out loud. Are you excited, captivated and attracted by what you just heard?


Tip #3: Get Your Leader A.C.T Together

All leaders must possess a certain set of values. Of these values, I recommend authenticity, credibility and transparency. Put together, they form my acronym A.C.T.

When leaders get their A.C.T together, magic happens in the organization. Consultants, executives and managers are invigorated because they know the leader walks the talk. He also encourages open channels of communication and there is mutual trust.

I would love to work in an agency under such a dynamic leader!

Conversely, imagine you are sloppy, unprofessional, temperamental and worse, you show favoritism openly.

For each touchpoint, I personally make an effort to ask my team for their honest feedback individually (so no one feels obliged to engage in groupthink). In this way, not only can I improve as a leader, but it also helps uplift the entire mood in the company knowing that I am also constantly improving.

Remember, leaders are humans and not Gods. The day you stop learning, unlearning and relearning is the day your team (or agency) gets overtaken in the competitive race. And the basic fundamental starts with getting your leadership A.C.T together.

Leadership is an ongoing and constantly evolving journey for everyone. But the safest and surest way to ensure you are on the right track is to work on your leadership brand =)



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