Is O levels or IP better for your child?

With the Secondary 1 (S1) Posting Exercise after getting your child's PSLE results, you may be wondering as a parent: Should my child go into a secondary school that leads to the O levels route or enrol in a school that offer the Integrated Programme (IP)?

A more detailed understanding of the IP will be beneficial before moving on to provide an answer to this question.

What is the Integrated Programme (IP)?
The IP was introduced to provide a smoother transition for students going to junior college from their secondary school education. Students under IP need not take the GCE O levels and can continue their education in a junior college after the 4 years of study in their secondary school.

For the list of schools offering IP, do refer to the MOE website.

Returning back to the question of choosing between the O levels or IP, here's an short guide to aid your decision making process for your child.

Chossing the O Levels route
After 4 or 5 years of education in secondary school, students will have to sit for the O level national examinations to assess what they have learnt during their time in secondary school. The grades that they obtain from this national examinations will also bring them to the next phase of their education life. If they fulfill the minimum grades required, they will be given the choice to choose between continuing their education journey in a junior college or polytechnic. Enrolling in a junior college will lead them to take on a rigorous curriculum for the next 2 to 3 years that leads to the A level/International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations. As for the polytechnic route, students will have to pick a specific course from a particular polytechnic to enrol in and they will be awarded a diploma at the end of the 3 years of education.

Choosing the IP route
Given the purpose of the IP being a programme designed to provide smoother transition for students to junior college, picking the IP route will naturally lead to the A levels/International Baccalaureate (IB). The curriculum that students will undergo in the IP will be more tailored to prepare them for the A levels/IB examinations. Thus, if you are sure that your child wants to enter junior college, the IP route will be more advisable as the IP will be a more focused curriculum for them towards the A level/International Baccalaureate (IB) national examinations.

Main differences between O Levels and IP
The main differences lie in the curriculum that students will go through and the options available after the 4 or 5 years of secondary school education. While the O levels route leaves more options for a child after their secondary school, the IP guides a child straight to the A levels/International Baccalaureate (IB). The IP programme also allows your child to skip a major examination which could either be a blessing or a curse. It allows your child to have a stress-free education for almost 6 years but it also means that you child lacks an additional major exam to help them prepare for the A levels or IB.

Thus, there is no 'better programme' and you would need to weigh the relevant factors with your child. You need to discuss with your child on how choosing certain schools will lead them to different education routes eventually and collectively make the best decision.

What's after?
Some parents may want their child to go for the A levels/IB route with the concern that enrolling in a polytechnic may lower a child's chance to enter a local university. However, this may not be the case as local universities are opening up to more polytechnic applicants in recent years. The primary determining factor for entry into a local university lies in the child's grades at the A levels/IB examinations or their Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) in polytechnic, and not the education institution that they come from. Therefore, discuss with your child and guide them through the above mentioned factors for them to pick in the route best suited for them to learn.

Lim Zhi Xuan
Zhi Xuan teaches subjects at primary school levels and enjoys reading on education topics to learn more and help in her teaching. Currently, she writes on Singapore education topics at Yodaa.