Debunked: The Myths and Stereotypes associated with Republic Polytechnic
ITE North: Have you ever seen this phrase and wondered what it refers to?
On some social media platforms, students can be seen posting videos of themselves wearing its colors, while others post complaints about the grading system in this school. That is when these mean-spirited remarks come pouring into the comments section… about Republic Polytechnic.
Republic Polytechnic (RP) is the youngest polytechnic among all five in Singapore. With over 40 diplomas offered, 5 of which are common programs for those who want a taste of each course from their respective schools, alongside more than 80 co-curricular activity opportunities, RP offers a vibrant student life on campus in both academic and holistic aspects.
Coming across such comments online will naturally encourage us to create a presumption about the institution in question, and hence it is crucial to evaluate what one sees on social media. These remarks are made without much understanding about life in RP, so they should not be taken beyond their face value. Fortunately, that is exactly what this article aims to help you with, reader.
Table of Contents
1. What does “stereotype” mean?
So, what does “stereotype” mean?
Before we begin, let me break down the meaning of the term ‘stereotype’ and how it relates to RP.
A stereotype is defined as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. In this case, the subject of these stereotypes is Republic Polytechnic. As mentioned in the introduction, even calling RP ‘ITE North’ is rooted in the possible inaccurate belief about the state of students who study in this school.
These stereotypes often stem from the belief that the lower the cut-off points, the better the course and polytechnic. Unfortunately, this also means the opposite; Higher cut-off points indicate a lower quality education. Although there is no correlation between these two separate issues, it is likely one of the reasons why Republic Polytechnic is deemed a bad school.
Higher cut-off points for a course do not imply anything negative. It tends to indicate that the course is less popular, but that does not mean the course itself is second-rate or non-profitable. Oftentimes, these cut-off points allow more students from various pathways to enroll and continue their education. The standard of education at a school should not be reduced to the cut-off points of its courses.
As mentioned earlier, the popularly coined term when referring to RP is ‘ITE North’. Factually speaking, there is no Institute of Technical Education in the North region of Singapore. Hence, most of the time this phrase is used as a form of insult, heavily linked to the stigma that ITE itself faces as an institute. Furthermore, it can be assumed that this term is used due to the acceptance of ITE students into RP during Early Admissions Exercises. However, it must be said that ITE students can be accepted into any of the 5 polytechnics, not only Republic Polytechnic.
Another aspect of this term to address is the use of ‘ITE’ in a negative manner.
Perhaps you have heard of the phrase, “Every school is a good school.” This phrase was popularized by Mr. Heng Swee Keat during his time as the Minister for Education, for it is a fact that all schools equip their students with the necessary and relevant knowledge needed for the future. The Institute of Technical Education fits this criterion. Using ITE as an insult, or even considering it to be one, implies the belief in a form of segregation between its students and other tertiary institutes in Singapore.
Referring to Republic Polytechnic as ITE North creates a misimpression that the school has the exact same learning approach and facilities as other ITEs, and furthermore it paints RP in the same unjust light that ITE faces, where many believe wrongfully that enrolled students will not be able to pursue further education.
“Problem Based Learning approach is used for everything.”
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching approach encouraging students to participate in problem-solving and critical thinking skills in a collaborative learning environment. In short, RP students are at times introduced to solving an assigned real-world problem, via individual research. This approach allows students to help apply their theory in practical situations, which prepares them better for the workforce. Students can also develop resilience when faced with challenging situations in real life and are able to approach the issue from a fresh perspective. Afterward, students are to present their findings to the class and lecturer. Along the way, students learn more about the concepts taught while engaging in peer feedback and teaching.
Although the PBL pedagogy is quite unique to RP, it is definitely not used for everything. Many modules are taught in a lecture format, which is commonly referred to as an Interactive Seminar.
Moreover, there are practical sessions in quite a few modules, depending on how specialized it is. For example, a module on Biology can include several laboratory sessions throughout the semester, during which students gain essential knowledge and experience relevant to working in such an environment. The type of learning approach used changes for every module and lesson, according to how efficiently the concepts can be taught. In fact, for me I spend most of the semester in the laboratory for two of my biology-related modules. Not all modules and lessons use the Problem Based Learning pedagogy.
“RP diplomas are not recognised by local universities.”
Such a misguided statement can be detrimental to the reputation of RP, and likely cause panic amongst students. Local universities, such as the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University, state on their official websites that they do in fact accept students from RP into enrolment.
In the above screenshot, a student who graduated with a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and was able to enroll in the National University of Singapore to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy.
Secondly, another RP alumnus was accepted into a prestigious University in the United States of America. Taken from the article, below is a summary of the positions and education that the student is pursuing at an international University.
Piragathesh is a representative for international students at the Columbia University’s General Studies Students Council, the president of the Columbia-Barnard Reflect, and that’s on top of his double major as a fifth year student in Neuroscience and Behaviour & Pre-Medicine at Columbia University
Universities do not simply consider the polytechnic that an applicant graduated from. Therefore, being a student from Republic Polytechnic does not affect one’s chances of entering a local university to pursue further education.
“RP students are lazy and incompetent.”
In the above screenshot, the use of individual experience is used to reach a concluding statement about the students of Republic Polytechnic.
Two individuals do not represent an entire population of students from RP. Of course, there will always be that handful of students who are indeed ineffective in their work. However, don’t all schools have those types of students? These individuals do not represent the rest of the school, and there are many hardworking students who put in the effort to take responsibility for their own education.
The decision of which Polytechnic to attend should be based on your preferences and the school’s culture and pedagogy. Some other factors to consider include course structure, facilities, interest groups and distance! All diplomas are recognized by local and overseas institutes alike, so graduating from RP does not affect one’s likelihood of enrolling in a university.
As a way to conclude this article, I would like to insert the following below. Taken from an article by Mothership.sg, these are statements from the Ministry of Education about what makes a school a good school.
“A good school cares for its students, studying and knowing the needs, interests and strengths of her students and motivates them to learn and grow.
A good school ensures all students acquire strong fundamentals of literacy and numeracy and develops them holistically, in character, knowledge and critical competencies.
A good school creates a positive school experience for each student, making him a confident and lifelong learner.
A good school has caring and competent teachers who are steadfast in their mission to impact lives.
A good school has the support of parents and the community, working together to bring out the best in our children, and
A good school cares for and provides opportunities to all students, regardless of family circumstances.”
My experience in RP has been enriching, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my education here. Perhaps, studying at Republic Polytechnic could be a blessing in disguise.