Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Should I/my child switch from pure to combined science?

Many students and parents have asked me the question posed in the title of this post. In fact, even without being asked, I have sometimes advised students to drop his/her pure science subjects and switch to combined science instead. I understand that this issue can be an emotionally clouded topic for most people, because there is a misguided perception that having to drop from pure to combined science is always a bad thing. I hope that with my years of experience of being a teacher and tutor, I can help some students and parents gain a clearer perspective on this issue.

In my opinion, there is no point in taking pure sciences if you are only going to score a B4 or worse.
  • Firstly, it increases your overall aggregate points of your O levels, which immediately puts you at a disadvantage when competing for a place at the institute/course of your choice.
  • Secondly, many JCs do not allow the student to take H2 level of a science subject if he or she scores a B4 or worse in that subject at the O levels. Therefore, if you want to do a pure science because you want to pursue it as a H2 science at A levels, but you are not able to score B3 or better at the O levels for this subject, then for all intents and purposes, you would have slogged through that pure science subject in vain.
It is true that few JCs also do not allow students to take H2 level of a science subject if the student only did that subject as combined science at O levels.Please check with the JCs you are interested,usually information can be found on their websites. However, as between scoring a distinction for combined science versus scoring a B4 or worse for a pure science, my opinion is that the first option is much more preferable, because every L1R5 point matters in the O levels. Just 1 point could be the difference between being qualified or disqualified to enter the JC/polytechnic course that you want.

The O level examination results are based on a bell curve, which means how you fare depends how badly or how well others can do in the same cohort. To be able to get distinctions is more difficult today than in the past because our education system is now much more competitive with the increased number of overseas scholars taking the same national exams as the local students. In assessing their ability to achieve a distinction in the O levels, students should bear in mind that it is not only how well they can do, but how much better they can do compared to other people taking the same exam.

Some students think that going to a polytechnic is a poorer choice than going to a JC. I would have agreed with this concern two decades ago. However, polytechnics have evolved over the years and now offer good courses and opportunities. Furthermore, overseas scholars from secondary schools are unable to apply for polytechnics, which means that local students have a better chance of getting good grades in polytechnic.

Do note that this blog post expresses my personal opinion of the best course of action for a student to take in particular circumstances. My opinions are based on my own experience as a tutor and schoolteacher of many years, and are in no way expressly supported or shared by any other institutions. I cannot guarantee the decisions made by any educational institutions, whether such decisions pertain to the admission of students to any institutions/courses or otherwise. 
In the end, it depends entirely on the student's objectives and assessment of what he/she wants and is likely to achieve.

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