Straits Times ran an article today about the through-train (nowadays, that’s the buzz word to atasize anything) system that lets Secondary 4 students proceed to ITE directly without having to go through O levels examination at Secondary 5. Here’s the hard pill: I think the ITE through-train is really not a bad idea. However, I, too, feel that students should be given a chance to give the O levels examination a shot if they wanted to. After all, it’s their own life that they are responsible for at the later part of their lives – not their principal. So, in this aspect, I don’t think the principal should have said what she said.

While the article was enlightening, I felt that it was published as a means of damage control somehow; or perhaps this was just a good opportunity to educate the public, including myself, on the merits and criteria of taking this through-train. Contrary to how I speak of the ITE to my friends, I don’t think It’s The End as long the students are willing. Seriously, some students may not adapt well to the education system here, but this doesn’t mean that they are lousy or no good. It just means that they should find a system where they can fit in.

I have a friend who likes to draw. He does fairly well in his examinations too, but he didn’t see a purpose in going straight to a Fine Arts School overseas without getting some exposure first. Even though I have lost touch with him since then, I agree that… not every interest/career/job/work/etc. requires a person to go through a strict education system that Singapore embraces.

Extending this, if a student feels that the O levels examination is a waste of his/her time and that a direct entry to the ITE is a better choice (and that he/she qualifies for it, see below article), then go for it. If he/she wants to give the O levels a shot, then no principal should be in his/her way for it.

Back to the typical Singaporean myself, the ITE though-train sounds like a good option because it paints a fast track picture. Of course, I am in no position to comment since I am not in it.

WHO’S afraid of going to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)?

Certainly not the 367 Normal (Academic) stream students who are the first to take the through-train programme from Sec 4 to a higher-level ITE course.

Until earlier this year, these courses were open only to those with O-level qualifications.

Like most of the fast-track students, Stephanie Tay, 17, could have gone on to Secondary 5 to take the O levels but went to the ITE instead.

‘At the ITE, what they teach is more hands-on compared to Sec 5, which is more academic,’ said the Greenview Secondary student.

Now taking a Higher National ITE Certificate (Higher Nitec) course in Biotechnology, she hopes to study business at a polytechnic in the future.

Likewise, Muhammad Luqman Abdul Halim, 16, went for Mechanical Engineering at the ITE.

He said: ‘I think it’s safer. If I do badly for the O levels, I will still end up in Higher Nitec.’

His decision was supported by his parents, he said, although his teachers at Dunman Secondary had encouraged him to attempt the O levels.

Now he is gunning to do aeronautical engineering at a polytechnic after he completes the two-year Higher Nitec course.

About 30 per cent of Higher Nitec students further their studies at polytechnics, said an ITE spokesman.

Those who ace their studies can also enter the second year of some polytechnic courses, keeping them on par with their Sec 5 peers who take the O-level-to-poly route.

Some schools have advised Sec 5 students to go to the ITE, but parents were upset as they preferred their children to take the O-level route.

It is currently harder to get a ticket for the through-train than it is to get promoted to Sec 5.

Some 72.5 per cent of the 11,653 Sec 4N(A) students who took the N levels last year were eligible for Sec 5, but only about half met the cut-off for direct entry to a Higher Nitec course.

Those students opting for the direct entry route have been attending a 10-week course since the start of January to prepare them for life at the ITE.

For one of them, Nurul Aisyah Supangat, 17, going to the ITE means she can focus on what she is interested in.

‘If I go to Sec 5, they have to teach us all the subjects. But at the ITE, they only teach the subjects relevant to our courses,’ she said.

For former Jurong Secondary student Yeo Shumin, 17, the ITE fast track is a boon as he wants to finish his studies quickly and start his own food or service business.

Shumin, who has a younger sister, convinced his teacher mum and contractor dad that he was sure of what he wanted.

‘I’m happy with my decision,’ he said.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 19th January 2008



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