SINGAPORE - More than 30,000 students took the O-level examinations last year and will be receiving their results on Jan 12, 2015. What lies before many of these young hopefuls is a choice between two institutions: Junior colleges and polytechnics.

This is a big step and making the right choice to suit their educational needs can be a daunting task.

We explore the options they face in a series of articles.

Polys step up cyber security courses to keep up with growing demand

On the back of a recent spate of cyber security breaches around the world - including the hacking of Hollywood studio Sony Pictures' systems - organisations from government agencies to financial institutions have been looking to beef up their information technology (IT) security against malicious attacks. And polytechnics in Singapore are leading the charge in grooming IT security professionals, offering new cyber security diploma courses and revamping old ones.

Two of the four new diploma courses at polytechnics this year will be in cyber security. In April, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) will introduce a diploma programme in information security and forensics, while Republic Polytechnic (RP) will launch a diploma programme in infocomm security management.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Niche courses at polytechnics a draw for students

More school leavers - including those who did well enough to enter junior colleges - are joining the five polytechnics in Singapore, continuing a trend that started more than five years ago.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show the intake of the five polytechnics went up from 25,700 in 2010 to 26,879 in 2013, the latest year for which the complete figure is available.

More significantly, of those who entered the polytechnics after the O levels, 40 per cent had qualified for junior college.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why some students gladly traded a place in Junior College for Polytechnic

Ms Yeo Xing Jie, 21, attended St Andrew's Junior College and completed her A levels before switching to Temasek Polytechnic to study aviation management.

Although she started two years later than her secondary school peers, she is glad she is finally pursuing a course she is interested in.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Junior College schemes stretch students' potential

Not many 17-year-olds would enjoy the daunting prospect of making business presentations to entrepreneurs in a foreign land.

But the experience was valuable for Pioneer Junior College (PJC) student Jonathan Loh Ryu Wen, who did so during a research trip and work attachment to Suzhou, China, under the school's Sirius Scholars Programme.

He said: "The projects we had to cover during the trip gave us a chance to practise the application of the business and leadership skills we learnt.

Read more here.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In their own words: Junior Colleges versus Polytechnics

Students have their say on whether Junior Colleges or Polytechnics are more suitable for them.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ask Sandra: Which of the 2 routes is best for me?

The Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie answers a student's question on choosing the junior college or polytechnic route.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Junior colleges offer broader options, quicker route to degree

Despite the growing popularity of polytechnics, junior colleges have held their own.

In the last seven years till 2013, JCs have maintained a yearly intake of more than 16,000 students, data from the Ministry of Education showed.

The figure has hovered from about 16,100 to 16,400 each year, which makes up about 27 per cent to 28 per cent of the size of each cohort back at Primary 1.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Twins set to split up for first time as life goals diverge

Fraternal twins Johanna and Joanne Foo, both 17, attended the same schools for the past 10 years, and they were even classmates for all but four years.

Johanna, who is older by two minutes, said of their time at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary) and its affiliated secondary school of the same name: "We did everything together. Even when we weren't in the same class, we still ate together during recess."

But after the release of the O-level examination results, the sisters will probably follow different education paths.

Read more here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Polytechnics offer courses to meet growing demand for data scientists

Companies are increasingly collecting data in greater volumes to study patterns in consumer behaviour. Even the German football team, en route to winning last year's World Cup, analysed massive amounts of data on its own players and rival players, to gain an edge.

To meet the rising demand for data scientists, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) is introducing a diploma course in big data management and governance, the only such full-time course at a poly here. It will also offer a part-time specialist diploma course in big data management. Last October, Nanyang Polytechnic introduced a part-time specialist diploma in business and big data analytics.