Hey there, I am a recent A-Level graduate (2021) and I took the Integrated Programme (IP) pathway. This article is for parents and students who are considering the IP track and curious about the IP system, and its pros and cons.
What is an Integrated Programme (IP)?
The Integrated Programme (IP) is a 6-year pathway that bypasses the O-Levels. Students who do extremely well for PSLE (please check the past year’s cut off points as different IP schools have different cut off points) will be eligible for the IP track. Students in this track will be aiming for the A-Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), or the NUS High School Diploma.
Why I chose to take the IP track and my experience
I chose to take the IP track because I did not want to depend on the O-Levels, a high-stake national examination, to determine which JC I will enrol in after secondary school. Although I will eventually have to take the A-Levels in J2, I wanted to reduce the number of high-stake national examinations that I have to take. It was definitely less stressful, since the weightage of my Year 4 examinations were spread out over the mid-year examination, assessments throughout the year, and end-of-year examination. However, the replacement of O-Levels did not give students a chance to slack. In order to be promoted to JC, IP students in my school had to obtain a minimum pass of 60% in their year 4 examinations. Furthermore, since the passing percentage was 60% instead of 50%, it may be easier to repeat a year if you are in the IP track as compared to the express track.
Secondly, the IP track prepares you for the JC teaching style. Many of the assessments there are project-based and I could vividly remember being given multiple group projects to complete over the March holidays in year 1. There are also assessments that require you to give a speech or presentation in front of the class. However, when you reach year 3 and year 4, most assignments involve individual work, especially for the sciences. Assessments that test your presentation and teamwork skills are beneficial because they prepare you for H1 Project Work in JC, as well as train your soft skills.
Pros of the Integrated Programme track
Besides what I have covered above, choosing the IP track means that you will be going to the same JC with most of your secondary school friends. It’s a plus, especially if you take a very long time to warm up to your peers. Having many familiar faces around you can also help you adapt to JC life more quickly.
The IP track also exposes students to more challenging topics that may not be covered in the O-Level track since there is no need to adhere to the O-Level syllabus. There will be opportunities for debates, Socratic circles and extra classes that explore topics like Philosophy, Confucianism, etc.
Cons of the Integrated Programme track
If you pass the promotional examinations, the IP track guarantees you a spot in the specific JC that your secondary school is tied to (for example, IP graduates from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School will have a spot in Eunoia JC). However, if you realise mid-way during your IP journey that JC is not for you and you want to enrol into a polytechnic instead, it is very hard for you to transfer out. You will only be able to enrol into a polytechnic if you drop out of JC, or after completing your A-Levels. It is also extremely difficult to transfer to another JC.
Additionally, going on the IP track means that you will not be graduating with a full O-Level certificate. If you do badly during the A-Levels, the only national examination certificate you will hold is your PSLE certificate. It will be quite hard to apply for jobs with a PSLE certificate.
So, is the IP track for me?
Some may think that the IP track is better than the express track, just because only top-scorers can enrol into IP schools. However, that is not the case. You should choose your track based on what you think suits you best. If you are very sure that you want to go to a JC and the academic rigour suits you, joining the IP track is a good choice. However, if you cannot decide between polytechnic and JC, it will be better to take the O-Level track so you can keep your options open and take more time to decide which tertiary institution is more suitable for you.
*This article is written by Gabrielle Lee of GapYearSG, who interned for Learners’ Lodge, MOE Special Education Division and Duke-NUS Medical School.