How You Can Help Your Child Pick The Right Post-‘O’ Level Course



If you have a child who sat for the GCE O-Level exams in 2017, you already know that this week, the results of those tests will come back, and they will have to decide: What next?

It seems like a no-brainer to look at the point tally when it returns, match it with a course at a junior college or institute, and call it a day. The points scored by your child, however, only paint part of the picture, and are just one factor out of many to consider.

At Thinksmart, our mission is to help our students learn critical, systematic thinking skills that they can apply in the real world to make smarter, more thoughtful decisions. It’s not just about making the decision; it’s about understanding why you’re making it, and how you can make the best one in any given situation. Like picking a path of study after the O levels.

One tool we’ve found incredibly useful for analytical decision-making is the decision matrix. Here’s an example you can adapt for your own use:


First, pick your criteria and evaluate the weightage of each on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most important). Next, list the potential courses, rating each against every criterion also on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most satisfactory).

Multiply these two numbers to get a sub-score; then, go down the column adding these together to arrive at each course’s total score. The higher the score, the better the fit.

Here are four tips for using this decision matrix to identify the most suitable post-O level option for your child:

  1. Ask your child about their goals in life, or what they like in general.

Do they enjoy logical problem solving and understanding how systems work? Engineering might be up their alley. Do they relate to people with sensitivity, and want to improve the wellbeing of others? They could make a great physiotherapist or teacher then.

Let your child’s strengths and interests guide the decision, as these are the strongest motivators and predictors of success you can find. By understanding what drives your child, you can help point them in a direction in which they can not only excel, but find genuine fulfillment, too.

  1. Distinguish between must-haves and nice-to-haves.

Make sure to be honest as you reflect on your child’s needs and situation.

Perhaps he or she has historically struggled in the area of mathematics, to the point of developing a huge dislike for the subject as well. In this case, a course curriculum that involves as little math as possible might be worth a weightage of 9 or even 10. Meanwhile, being able to walk to class is nice, but should probably not determine your child’s future.

This step will also be crucial in the event that two courses rack up the same total score on the matrix. You can break the tie by comparing how they scored on the criteria you awarded the highest priority.

For instance, you might want to go with a course that does not have basic math modules over a course that does have a numbers component, assuming that ‘limited math required’ is the most non-negotiable criterion on your list.

  1. Do your research.

Gather as much information as you can about the various institutions and courses. Yes, click around on the school website, but don’t stop there; participate in web forums or Facebook groups, and reach out to lecturers, alumni, and family friends who may have been through the course you are now contemplating.

This way, if you discover that mass communications at XYZ Polytechnic has rave reviews across the board, for example, you can then be confident in rating it a 10 under ‘reputability’.

  1. Stay open and communicate.

Most importantly, the decision matrix has to come from an honest dialogue between you and your child, with both sides bringing to it an open mind and a nonjudgmental attitude. Before immediately writing a choice off as “good” or “bad”, try to first understand your child’s thought process or emotion behind it.

Bear in mind that there is no absolute “right” choice, no one-size-fits-all; it’s all about leveraging on your child’s personality and passion to help them succeed.

At the end of the day, technical knowledge is one thing, but it’s the underlying skills like empathy, communication, and critical thinking that are going to matter most down the line––including to prospective employers. Just take a look at this article about Google and what they value in their own employees.

Ultimately, it is knowing how to learn, how to interact, and how to make decisions, that will best equip one for this ever-changing world. With fundamental skills like these, your child will be positioned to make his or her own success in life.

Still have questions or concerns? Call us at +65 6438 8150 for a free consultation on course selection for your child. We’d be more than happy to help.

Leave a Comment