This post is about my polytechnic education and experiences. I think it’s the right time to write about it especially since it’s the graduation season now. Congratulations to all of you! To some, polytechnic education was just a stepping stone towards university education. To others, it could have been their greatest achievement in their life. Whichever the case, you did it and that calls for a celebration! The tears. The joy. The memories. The flood of posts on social media. The dabbing on stage before collecting the certificate. It’s all coming back to me. Not too long ago, three years to be exact, I graduated from Singapore Polytechnic with a Diploma in Accountancy. To really talk about my polytechnic experience, I think it’s important to talk about what happened before, during and after it to really give you the full picture. I have tried to write each section based on how I felt in that various periods.
Before: 4 reasons why I chose the poly route
Because it’s cool, duh!
Most of my cousins went to poly and you know when you’re young you want to grow up and be like your older cousins. Apart from that, the whole idea of carrying around your laptop to school, doing work on it, chatting on MSN during lectures and tutorials (MSN was still alive when I was in secondary school: 2007-2010), and playing card games appealed a lot to me. Also, have you seen those publicity materials of these Polytechnics? They made polytechnic life seem really cool. On top of that, the Channel 5 show, Light Years was what really made me think that poly life is cool. Also, there’s no physical education and that brings it to cool level 1000(at least for me). Haha!
Because I can wear my own clothes, dye my hair and do whatever I want.
Having been picked by my school Vice Principal and Discipline Master for my nose piercing ever since I got it done when I was in sec 2, and other minute stuff, I was tired of the whole school environment with unnecessary rules and enforcement on attire, and grooming. Why does it matter whether I wear a blue rubber band or a pink one? You just want everyone to look the same and boring. And what has my black coloured shoe lace got to do with anything? My school held spot-checks during assembly to check top-down to ensure that we were not infringing on any of these very important rules. Since I had not had the opportunity to do all these for so many years, why would I go and put myself through another 2 years of school environment. Apart from that, I didn’t want to wear those ugly uniforms. I wanted to dress up and dye my hair(which I did) a week after O’ levels was over. I was a rebel! :P(I later regretted it. I think I look better with black hair. Now, I think I need black dye with all that white hair that I am starting to have).
Most importantly, I had thrown away my secondary school uniform shortly after O’ levels was over. Even if I later changed my mind and decided that I wanted to go to a JC, the thought of being that extra girl not in her secondary school uniform made me uneasy? Okay, just disregard this. It’s just one of my impulsive move at the thought of I don’t have to go to that place anymore. Good riddance! I also liked the freedom that I could have. I could go anywhere after school and mum won’t know nor ask me what took me too long. I could just say that I was just doing project work.
Because I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket!
Most people didn’t know this but the year that I took O’ levels I broke down. I felt so stressed and pressurised to do well and get A1s for all subjects. It doesn’t help when you have a smart elder brother who had set the bar high for you. He had already won me in PSLE, albeit by 10 points. You know that you would inevitably be compared with him. My teachers were also putting a lot of pressure too. There was so much work to do and it was never-ending. I think I stopped doing all work about 5 months before the exams. I would just sleep when I came back home and even in school but discreetly of course. Eventually I did well with distinctions in all subjects except combined humanities. But that made me think of how the work done in the four years is completely disregarded and all that people care about is that paper that you get at the end of it. It all boiled down to that one exam that I am sitting at the end of the four years. I didn’t want to put myself through that again. In poly, we would have modules so the risk is less concentrated, unlike JC which would have me write an exam at the end of the 2 years.
Because everyone asked me to go JC
A lot of people told me that if I go to poly, I can’t make it to local uni. The people who told me this said it out of concern more than a doubt of my ability. Back then, it was believed that only the top 5% of the cohort can make it to university. Going just by probability, my chances were low. It was the year 2011. SkillsFuture and the closure of JCs hadn’t occurred at that time. People were still going gaga over getting a degree, particularly from a local uni. They did make sense but since young whenever someone said that I cannot do something, I try my best to prove them wrong. Like how Bruno Mars would sing: I sang,
“DON’T BELIEVE ME JUST WATCH!”
Wait, the song didn’t exist then. But you get the idea. I just was rebellious. I always liked underdogs especially after watching Rocky haha! I think that I am one too! I went to neighbourhood primary and secondary school. I did pretty well in my O’ levels and I wanted to prove everyone that you can take the poly route and still make it to local uni and enrol in the course of your choice. Of course, I could have just gone to a JC and reached that same place. But that would be boring and where’s the challenge?
While I liked dressing up to school and having all that great food options(SP had 6 canteens, McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Burger King, Starbucks, when I was studying there. I am not sure if that’s still the case.), I did not really enjoy my time there initially. I had chosen to go to SP Accountancy together with one of my friends but we were placed in different classes and rarely got a chance to see each other. The rest of my sec sch clique had gone to NYP. During the initial phase, I really missed them. On top of that, I hated the 1-hour long train rides to school. I liked the freedom but I missed the way the teachers connected really well with me. But of course, there were a couple of lecturers and tutors whom I was personally close to. I hated that the number of public holidays(no school days) had drastically decreased. Sigh. Based on the NUS Indicative Grade Profile then, I had to get 3.87 to make it to NUS Accountancy. My GPA in my first semester was 3.714. I remember so clearly because I was that affected by it. While I had confidently made the decision to study in poly, I was suddenly questioning whether I had made the right decision. Perhaps, everyone else was right. I should have gone to JC. Most people do the opposite(JC to Poly), but I was considering transferring out to JC. But after talking to my parents and some people, I stood by my decision and completed my 3 years.
However, by my third year, having gone on an internship and with the passing of my grandmother, I think my perspectives had changed drastically. I started appreciating what I have more. I realised that I had three very good friends(who also were great project mates). They are Julia, Man Ping and Yi Shen. Haha, I sound like I am revealing the winners for some award show. They had made my poly life more bearable. The train rides back home. The lunch chats at Foodcourt 6. I also had another awesome friend, Sharmila. While I was so fixated on achieving that GPA to make it to uni and only involved in one or two activities outside of school, Sharmila was involved in so many CCAs. She was the lively and carefree one who was both extremely fluent in Tamil and English. The only person I could have good conversations in Tamil. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Apart from the people, another thing that made me enjoy my poly journey was the library. The Hilltop Library was my favourite place in SP. They had all the good books which were always on loan in the NLB Libraries. I remember devouring so many books when I was studying there. It was my escape from reality. Whether or not I had my lecture notes, I always had a book in my bag. Apart from that, I also borrowed and watched so many movies(mostly of the Romantic Comedy genre). I think that’s when I started seeing how much I loved words, drama and movies.
I can’t possibly talk about my polytechnic experience without talking about academics right. Haha! Honestly, my favourite modules weren’t accounting modules. That shouldn’t come as a shock since I talked about how I didn’t like accounting much in my first post. One of my favourite modules was called Personal Effectiveness Skills for Accountants. It’s prety cool because among other things, I learnt how to deliver a TED talk and…. Make-up! I loved it! Haha! Other modules which I thoroughly enjoyed are part of the General Education series. These modules are pretty much the poly version of General Paper. Assessment for this modules was mainly conducted through projects and reflective journals. I learnt so much about issues affecting Singapore and the world. Things that I had been completely oblivious about. I also started thinking critically and developed a sense of empathy too. I know there were people who hated it but I think I enjoyed these modules the most.
To be continued… (This post is going too long. Will continue on the After in the next post.)
Thank you for reading. And stay curious! 😉