What to do after ‘A’ levels?

‘A’ levels results release day is today.

I am sure all parents will be very excited about this day. While our school does not have any graduating ‘A’ level students this year, we are excited for the current ‘A’ level batch. Some of them were my students whom I taught when I still worked for the Ministry of Education. I was a former ‘A’ level student and an educator who has seen many of my students go to university. I thought I would put in my two cents about the choices after ‘A’ levels.

How can parents support their children after ‘A’ levels?

One important thing you must do is to support your child regardless of his results. To reach this stage (‘A’ levels), your child has excelled. Only 20-25% of the student population reach this stage (this excludes the students in the Polytechnic route). Your child has done his best, and you should be supportive. Even if your child has gotten disappointing results, you should still comfort them. Any discussions of what to do can done after everybody has gotten a good night’s sleep.

“Choose the right course, not the best course.

After a good night’s sleep, and after the euphoria of getting the results has died down, you can then discuss his future together. You might have already done this, but this time, you have a concrete set results that will help point the way. It is important not pressure your child to go to the course you want to go, or to go to the best course their ‘A’ level grades allow. Instead, they should go to the right course for themselves. What is their passion? What are their dreams? I have met so many people that waste three to four years of their life just to please their parents and do something else after they graduate. Nowadays, there are multiple entry paths to great jobs. I know many people who are in jobs that they did not study for as their passion changed over the years.

What are the options after ‘A’ levels?

The most popular choice is local universities. They are good universities, their degrees widely accepted throughout the world, they are in Singapore and they are probably the cheapest option. If your child can make it the two oldest universities, National University of Singapore or Nanyang Technological University, it is great. Even if they cannot, the other newer universities like Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore Institute of Technology (though originally designed more for Polytechnic students) are good institutions too. These universities are holding their open house within this month, so do take note of these dates.

Private universities are also an acceptable choice. Of course, the best choices are SIM University, LASALLE College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and BCA Academy. These are institutions that receive certain government funding in selected areas, and this might be more useful when applying for jobs, especially government jobs.

Another group of private universities are foreign universities that operate in Singapore. There are quite a few of them, their information easily found online. Some of the bigger ones (in terms of enrolment) are James Cook University and Curtin University. Their campuses are in Singapore, so it easily accessible to students here.

The third group of private universities are found in private schools in Singapore. These schools are usually the agents for foreign universities. Some of these courses require the student to go to the ‘mother’ university for one term. While they are a way for students to achieve a university degree, please do your research. Some of these schools offer degrees from universities that might not be very reputable. While the MOE does not have a list of accepted degrees, do notice that employers do have a preference for the more established universities. Also do note that these schools should be approved by the Council of Private Education (CPE). You will have protection as the CPE is a statutory board that ensures these schools have quality.

There is also a possibility for ‘A’ level students to move to the Polytechnic path. It is not a total loss as some people think. There are Polytechnic courses that allow ‘A’ level students to enter directly into the second year or get some discount. So, if your child has a change in interest, going to the Polytechnic route and then going to university is still possible. The polytechnics I know of include Nanyang Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. I believe the rest do offer – just go to the respective websites to find out more.

For people with deeper pockets, there is a choice of going overseas for studies. The most common choice now is Australia, followed by United Kingdom (UK) and United States of America (USA). Of course, I have friends that went to France, Canada, China and even Japan for their basic degree. You have to do research for all these countries as there is no way I can provide all the relevant information. I did include the details for UK and USA as I am familiar with these two countries.  There are many private organisations that help students study in foreign countries but I am not familiar with them as I only talked to universities and the official government offices directly. Do take note that many countries do need to Singapore students to take some proficiency test in addition to their ‘A’ level results.

If your child is still not certain of the route, they might consider taking a year out. It is, of course, available only to girls and boys who are not Singapore citizens. Boys who are Singapore citizens are forced to take two years out due to their National Service commitments. During this time, the people taking the year out can explore their hobbies or even take a part-time job. Of course, this requires you as the parent to be supportive. Sometimes, I see children who are very jaded after studying non-stop for twelve years. It might be a good time for them to take a break and refresh themselves. It ultimately depends on your judgment if they require a break or they are taking the easy way out and living off you.

There are indeed many choices for our children after their ‘A’ levels. There are still many things you need to think about – your finances, his interest, his ability to be independent and motivated, your family needs and so on. Take your time to sit down and discuss it thoroughly with your child. Best of luck to you and your child’s future.