On my very long drive home today (It took me more than an hour to get home from work!), I listened to Michelle and Daniel Martin discussing the options available after 'O' levels over 93.8 Live.
Incidentally, I met three former students last week and they received their 'O' level results today. Of the three, two were certain they were heading for the poly regardless of how they performed. Curious, I asked one of them how she made her choice. She confidently said she had heard that JC was secondary school compressed into two years. Since she already felt that secondary school was stressful, she could not imagine doing that amount of work in two years. She already had in mind what she would study in a polytechnic. I was impressed that she had considered her choices carefully and was able to articulate the reasons for her decision.
The sole student who wished to study in a JC had a decent L1R5 but eventually decided to enrol in MI as the A level syllabus would be rolled out in three years compared to two in a regular JC. Again, I was amazed that a 16-year-old could know her learning style well enough to make the decision so quickly and resolutely.
In my time, at least among my peers, the choice was quite fixed. The people I hung around all chose to go to JCs. The question then was 'which JC' and not 'JC or poly'. One privileged school mate did take a path less trodden - she did a foundation year in an Australian university to quicken her journey to becoming a doctor. I remember she got at least 7 A1s, so her going overseas was not due to the inability to enrol in a JC. Anyway, my point is that we all pursued the degree path without much thought. I do not think I would be able to articulate then why I chose to go to a JC instead of a poly as that thought had never even crossed my mind.
Thus, I think the educational landscape may have changed since my time. Schools may be providing better advice to students and communicating the various options more clearly to them. Currently, I still feel that a degree is important and I will encourage poly students to work towards a degree. To this end, I have seen many poly grads eventually obtaining degrees, locally or overseas, so I am all for the poly route if the student prefers a more practical (vs theoretical) curriculum.
I wish my former students success as each of them pursues his own dream.