Latest Junior College cut-off points reignite debate on Singapore’s education system

Nurul Azliah Aripin
Lifestyle Lead
Singapore students use the iPad in a language arts class in Nanyang Girls' High School on May 18, 2011

The cut-off points system for students to enter polytechnics, institutes of technical education and junior colleges is not new for many Singaporeans.

Nonetheless, a Facebook post by popular blogger Mr Brown highlighting next year’s requirements to enter junior colleges has reignited a debate on Singapore’s education system.

The post has garnered more than a thousand shares and likes respectively, since being posted on Friday.

Earlier in September, the Ministry of Education released the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) booklet, which includes a list of points required by students to enter the various junior colleges in Singapore.

Screen grab from the Joints Admission Exercise booklet showing list of cut-off points for students to enter the various Junior Colleges. 

The latest list bears little difference from the previous year, with Anglo-Chinese Junior College, one of the prestigious colleges in Singapore, sticking to its three-point requirement for a student to enroll in its Science and Arts courses.

Meanwhile, Raffles and Hwa Chong Institutions, considered as the crème de la crème of Singapore JCs, will be welcoming students with an L1R5 of three points for its Science course, and four points for the Arts Course - previously three.

For the unacquainted, L1R5 refers to a combination of ‘O’ Level grade points for one language subject (L) and five other relevant subjects (R). If you get an A1 for a language subject, that’s one point for you. The smaller the number, the better. 

Logically, the lowest number of points a secondary school graduate can score for six subjects would be six. But due to exceptions such as school affiliations and progress in co-curriculum activities, students can reduce their L1R5 up to two points.

Yes, you can have an L1R5 of two points for six subjects.

Mr Brown’s post has sparked a debate among commenters, many of whom disagree with the points system.

Some perceive it as one that breeds elitism while some question its relevance, highlighting its negative impact on students’ creativity and the availability of other “good schools” such as the polytechnics and institutes of technical education.

“If u get 6 points in 6 O level subjects, u still can't be eligible to enter some JCs then something is wrong with the school system! MOE always maintain all schools are the same, then how come when u get highest grade in L1R5, u still can't get into some JC? Some schools are more privileged than other?” said a Loh Wai Poon.

“It's been like this since a long time ago, and it has been done by so many students. In the end, it's the same A level cert,” said a Chua Zi Han.

“Though the JCs have varying COP (Coefficient of Performance), they teach the same stuff, and quality of teachers rarely differ too much in the schools. The biggest difference of the schools is their culture and demographics. But again, the COP certainly reflect the performance of individual JCs,” said a Thung Yi Tian.

“Consider what it would take to get a child to get that sort of results. And imagine when they go to the top JC, they get handpicked to be trained for a PSC (Public Service Commission) scholarship. And then when they meet the PSC chairman for an interview, he says Singapore's youth are uncreative and risk-averse,” said a Visakan Veerasamy.

“Many students go to Poly, have a fun time and still manage go to local Uni...just saying,” said a Teck Chong.

“No need stress, really. If you are smart, you are smart. If you are stupid, you are stupid. Work with what you have and make the best of it,” said an Aivern Tan.