The Polytechnic Way, The Way to Go

Hey guys! I’m back with a quick write up. Since I have been getting an influx of visitors wanting to know more about NTU, perhaps I should also cover on Pre-U matters to aid secondary school leavers on which study path to go upon completing their ‘O’s. Since I am a Polytechnic graduate, I thought it would be more appropriate for me to talk in depth about the diploma route.

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As many of you know, I was educated in Singapore Poly (SP) and I graduated 2 years ago. Interestingly, I never struggled with my options after completing my ‘O’ levels as I had already made up my mind even before I began Secondary Five. I would take time to browse through SP website (because it was the most convenient Poly for me and my father was also an SP graduate) and the informational brochures all 5 Polys would send me throughout the year. Though some may argue that I had 1 extra year to decide, I believe I would still do the same even if I was in the Express stream.

Check our this article from Digital Senior to understand more about the differences and similarities between Polytechnic and University life!

Why did I not choose the Junior College (JC) route then? Apart from being sick of the books (I definitely did not want to study intensely for another 2 years after going through ‘N’ and ‘O’ levels consecutively), I wanted more hands-on experiences and the idea of being able to wear home clothes to school just won me over. Very superficial I know. But trust me, there is more to that. So going to JC never crossed my mind. Fortunately, my batch was able to experience the PAE (Provisional Admission Exercise a.k.a “first three months”) before it was abolished. I did fairly well for my prelims and went to Innova JC. However my first three months only lasted for a day because I found a job which commenced on the second day haha. Hence I wasn’t at all tempted or lured to go to JC.

Studying in polytechnics does not only give you hands-on experience (which is heavily harped on by all Polytechnic when promoting to secondary school leavers), students also get to meet and work with real companies through internships and projects assigned by the school. I have personally visited PR firm Edelman, spoken with someone from advertising firm Leo Burnett (who is also a graduate of my alma mater as well), worked with Singapore Maritime Foundation on a logo and many more. If you have communications background, you’d definitely know the first 2 firms mentioned because they are worldwide renowned. People who specialise in radio and TV will also get to work in Mediacorp studios or radio. I have also been personally taught by real industry players, such as the founder of MooMedia (a pretty well-known cinematography and photography company that recently just helped produced the NDP mini series) for a particular video editing course. Being a Poly student really gives you an edge over JC students who will only know about these in Uni (unless of course, you already have an interest in this area and have had hands-on experience).

I understand some students chose to go to JC due to financial difficulties since Poly fees are so expensive. But for students who chose the JC route because they hadn’t decided on which career path or specialisation to take.. why? I mean, no offence but I really cannot fathom why some hadn’t make up their minds. How long more would they need to decide? If they couldn’t even decide in 4-5 years, would an additional 2 years help at all? These people rely on fate to take them to places and to me, they are just plain lazy.

Of course, there are those who think that the duration to obtain a diploma is too long, that they’d get distracted in Poly and fare badly or that getting into a local University using a diploma is tougher than using an ‘A’ level cert.

As one who had enjoyed and developed tremendous skills during her time in Poly, done fairly well and gotten a place in NTU (applied twice and was offered a place in both, even though the first wasn’t what I wanted), I can easily refute all these assumptions. What’s more, I came from the not-so-elite-and-looked-down-upon Normal Academic stream which is “supposed” (italics + inverted commas to emphasize that it is NOT true at all) to be less academically inclined so what other excuses do you have?! To add on, I was also from the “lousiest” and “stupidest” EM3 stream in primary school but that’s another story.

Not trying to be cocky but I truly believe it all boils down to your mindset (maturity) and self-discipline. People who tell (or scare) prospective Poly applicants that they’d tend to slack, cut classes bla bla bla and ultimately get poor GPAs are usually those with no self-control themselves. The timetable is less rigid such that you do not have classes everyday from 9am-2pm which allows you to have more free time (usually for group projects but I had my own life.. I went shopping in town and relaxed too). No one told you to slack and skip classes what?! If you do it, that’s your own problem! If you’re determined and focused enough, you should be able to overcome this obstacles. If you keep having the mindset that, oh.. I’m in Poly, I bound to lose focus, play a lot and then do badly like my seniors, then of course you’re bound to fail too. So don’t generalise and make slacking sound like it’s part of the Poly culture. It’s definitely not.

Yes, poly takes a longer time to complete but why are you complaining? What’s the rush? You are 17 (or 18 in my case) and you’re a student. You are going to spend the rest of your life working and clocking hours so why not enjoy your student life while it lasts? If money is a problem, you can always work part-time like how I did (I worked on weekends throughout my Poly life so don’t tell me about how busy you are in school.. I’ve been there, done that). The same idea applies to undergrads too. Sometimes I just don’t understand their hurry to complete their undergrad studies. Imagine waking up at 7am everyday, struggling to get into the packed train before and after work and only able to get home by 7pm, barely even have time for entertainment because you’ll be dead beat by then. I dread the day I have to work full-time. Lol, but I guess everyone has his reasons for dying to graduate ASAP.

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Just me and the gentlemen at my SP Graduation, May 2011.

And going to a Polytechnic definitely does not reduce your chance of entering into a local Uni. As mentioned earlier, if you’re focused and disciplined enough, you should do just fine and subsequently graduate with flying colours. I was in director’s list for the first year but competition was so stiff in my school so I didn’t emerge as top 10 in my third year. But my GPA was decent enough to earn me a spot in NTU, which was my to-go local Uni since WKWSCI (or ADM) was what I really wanted. I have many friends in my course (Media and Communication) who also got a spot in NTU, NUS, SMU so yes, it’s definitely possible 🙂

I would also like to highlight again, in case it wasn’t obvious earlier, that you do not need to be in top 10 in your cohort to get into a local Uni (for normal admission). I mean it does help getting a diploma with merit but as long as your GPA meets the COP for your desired course, there should not be a problem (unless you’re super unlucky). They also look at your ‘O’ level results.. So, if what I have written above doesn’t spur you to work hard for your O’s, I hope this does now. Hahaha.

Also, as briefly mentioned in my NTU freshmen entries, being a polytechnic graduate would have equipped you with a lot of relevant skills which JC graduates didn’t have the chance to learn. The culture, though faster paced in Uni, for both are also similar so it won’t appear as a drastic transition or a culture shock to you. You also get to be exempted from similar courses and that means more free time for yourself! Hahaha. Isn’t that great?

So here, something to ponder about for you secondary school leavers. No hard feelings for JC choosers! I mean if your ambition is to be a doctor, dentist, lawyer or other prestigious professions, probably continuing your studies in JCs would be a better choice. I said probably because it’s also possible to get into law and medical schools using your relevant diploma certs (with more effort of course)! Click here 😀

Yup I’m such an advocate for polytechnic studies haha. Because I really feel that I have benefited and learned a lot from SP which is something I wouldn’t get if I went to JC 😉

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‘Til next time!

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Just two weeks ago I had to hold a discussion on the impact of Google in front of the class.

Google in this case refers to the internet in general. You see, Google has essentially impacted our lives so much that people start associating it to the world wide web despite it being launched only 4-5 years AFTER Yahoo! – a search engine we thought was such a big deal. Disagree? Now just how many times have you used the term “Google” when you supposedly mean you need to look something up?

When I did my research I stumbled onto Nicholas Carr’s renowned article about Google (titled the same as this post). I can’t help but to agree – Google is indeed making us think less and more dependent on it for information. It’s like, our depth of thinking never expanded since the we started relying on the internet for answers. We assume it knows everything, and sites like Answers.com and Ask___.com aren’t helping either.

I have personally come across students posting their discussion topics/questions (supposedly given by their school teachers) online. By that I mean, seriously the entire question copied and pasted. Only a handful of the respondents realised his laziness and refused to share the answer. But majority of them actually painstakingly did! It was surprising, and that also proves how the internet has slowly led to the reduction of hard work we put in our research.

And another thing that Carr pointed out was our attention span when it comes to reading. I bet many of us experience that as we’d merely skim through long articles. For myself, I wouldn’t go beyond 4 paragraphs if it isn’t about sex, crime or anything else newsworthy. It would be a torment to read ONE page of text. That’s because internet has allowed us to CHOOSE from a wide variety of information. We click on the first few search results on Google and exit the pages less than 5 minutes after we enter them – solely because they don’t have what we wanted. As a result the way we read suffers and you’d probably find yourself losing focus after awhile. If you never realised that, think back about that one time you were studying for a test. Didn’t you get fidgety after reading a few sentences?

Now with Twitter it seems to worsen the matter. Because of its 140-word only policy, we find ourselves accustomed to reading short texts. So when lecturers need you to read 3 pages from a textbook it’d be equivalent to shooting you in the head. At this rate, textbooks would have to be HEAVILY simplified so that they don’t bore students so easily. We want the details to come *snaps* FAST. So.. really, would engaged readers eventually cease to exist?

However to be fair, we also need to look at the other side of the coin. Without the internet, we’d still be living in our own world, not knowing what is happening around us. With Apocalypse (natural disasters, global warming etc) approaching, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge to survive. And the Internet has helped us a lot in this aspect. We also need to constantly adapt to changes. So in other words, the Internet COULD HAVE also made us smarter in another way.

Some argue that ultimately how much we use the Internet is within our control. It’s our responsibility – which I, too, agree.

So what’s your take in this? If I have to make a stand, I’d say yes – Google does make us stupid. But I’m willing to be stupid as long as it keeps me alive.

You in 2050

Sometimes I really count myself lucky to be born in Generation Y when somehow inventors got smarter and started creating things that would make our life a whole lot easier. When handphones with built-in cameras and (slow) internet were launched about 7 years back, I thought that was already the peak of technology and it would probably stop there because I couldn’t think of other ways to make a phone more awesome. But heck, I was WRONG. Then came iPhone with those interesting applications that even hooked my 55-year-old aunt onto them. At this rate, I really wonder how technology would further evolve in the next 40 to 50 years (of course ignoring the HEARSAY that the world would end in 2012)?

Would we be able to control technology with our hands? Unknowingly we may have already experienced the first few stages of it. See how we use our fingers to control the settings on our Mac Books? One finger to move the cursor, two to scroll and four to (in Windows term) minimize and maximize windows. If Steve Jobs and his men are able to ditch the touchpad while still allowing us to do the aforementioned and MORE, I’m pretty sure life as we saw in Minority Report would be achievable 🙂

Actually movie directors seem to have better insight into the future. Perhaps when I celebrate my 60th birthday (if I can live that long) I would have already worked in an underground facility that is controlled by super computer. Yes, what you see in Resident Evil may just jolly well come true. And be careful when you sleep, as someone may just extract information from your unconscious mind when you dream. 😛

8 years ago when Minority Report was released, there were no social networks nor touchscreen phones. Gadgets we saw in the movie were hence pretty unrealistic. Most of us, I’m sure were skeptical of the whole new revolution. But guess what happened? Those unbelievable gadgets are slowly turning into reality. Do you know the US Army is currently researching on how to create a screen that is so thin and flexible that it can be rolled up? 🙂 It would most likely replace the bulky, heavy netbooks/iPad/handphones we’re carrying now. especially when it doesn’t consume so much power! I read that it could be available in 3 years’ time.

Anyway apart from the retractable screen, the movie showcased numerous other inventions which could probably come true in the future. But there are also some things which I reckon are unnecessary, accompanied with my explanation.

  1. Iris Recognition
    In the movie, people are identified by their iris (EYEBALLS) because apparently everyone’s iris is as unique as a fingerprint. But isn’t fingerprint recognition good enough for us? I’m not sure about you but when the beam flashes into your eye to identify your iris, it seems to hurt, like when the camera flashes right into your eyes. If you’re thinking about false rejections that fingerprint recognition could cause, many of these rejections are caused by human error (error during the registration). I do not totally disapprove of iris recognition though; it could be made into an alternative, like for silly people who chop off their fingers to escape from justice. But it should not definitely be made into compulsory gadget. 🙂
  2. E-paper
    One of the most “WHOA!” items I saw in the movie.. just too unbelievable and I doubt every print company would go into that extent because of its cost and.. I don’t know. I prefer hard copies more? If I see an article I like, I’d cut it out and keep it somewhere. I don’t like print screening and saving it on my computer because you wouldn’t know when it’ll crash. (And I don’t have the habit of backing up my files) Once again, it can be made into a money-making alternative but definitely not a must-use.

I guess that’s all from the whole list of possible gadgets shown in the movie. The rest… they would pretty much add a whole lot of convenience to our lives 🙂

I tried imagining myself  sitting on the couch, watching a 3-D film that projects holographic images in my living room. Then when I’m done with it, I’ll head over to my desk that holds my computer. But instead of using a mouse, I gesture. I gesture for the Firefox (probably by then it’d be taken over my Snow Leopard) window to be up! Right in front of me, is the Firefox window projected in the air. I touch the screen to navigate. That, my friends, is probably life in 50 years!

Now try imagining yours in 2050! 🙂