Arts Schools Versus Polytechnics: What’s The Difference?

Singapore Arts festival: check out our local arts scene!

Photo credit: Poached

With Singapore’s budding arts industry, it’s strange that there isn’t more information on the selection of arts diploma courses available after the ‘O’ Levels. More and more students are looking at arts schools as a plausible choice to study at, with the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), LASALLE College of the Arts, and Singapore’s 5 polytechnics as their top choices.Post-secondary arts schools in singapore To make it easier for you, we’ve compiled a quick comparison of the differences between the privatised NAFA and LASALLE, and the government-funded polytechnics. We’ve also compiled a brief table comparing NAFA and LASALLE courses with similar ones from the various polytechnics. If you want to find out more about how Singaporeans are slowly changing the way they think about arts and culture, or arts schools in general, check out our earlier post on why you should consider arts schools. If you’re still thinking about what courses to enrol for, we have a comprehensive list of articles about the JAE and your post-secondary pathways at the bottom of this post.

Difference #1: Courses offered

what's the difference in arts diploma courses from arts schools and polytechnics
NAFA's interior design diploma

Photo credit: NAFA

As for arts courses, both NAFA and LASALLE offer specialised classes, with subjects ranging from the performing arts, like dance and theatre, to interior and architectural design courses. As you can see above, some of the 5 polytechnics do offer similar courses in art and design. However, the polytechnic courses are often slightly different.
LASALLE offers a diploma in performance, while SP offers an applied drama course

Photo credit: Straits Times

For example, NAFA and LASALLE offer theatre courses for those who are interested in drama and acting. In comparison, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) offers an ‘Applied Drama & Psychology’ course, which does revolve around dramatic acting, but also focuses on its application in the field of psychology and the social sciences. In this case, it is really a matter of what you’re interested in. Arts schools like NAFA and LASALLE offer courses that are more specialised in the arts, while the polytechnics offer more general courses that grant students exposure in other disciplines like business and the humanities.

Difference #2: Resources

LASALLE campus has a more specialised arts facilities

Photo credit: LASALLE

Also, since NAFA and LASALLE have been around for a longer period of time, they are generally more recognised as established arts institutions, both here and overseas, as compared to the polytechnics. They also have campuses dedicated to the arts! You’ll find specially designed studios and theatres in NAFA and LASALLE that you can get hands-on experience working in. On the other hand, the polytechnics have larger campuses, and you may have a more vibrant campus culture because you’ll get to mix with students from other courses. And because polytechnics generally have more resources, students have more opportunities for overseas internships and attachments. You’ll get to travel to other countries and learn about other cultures!

Difference #3: Creativity and talent

NAFA's masterclasses give you valuable experience from industry experts

Photo credit: NAFA

In arts institutions like NAFA and LASALLE, masterclasses are common. These masterclasses are usually lectures by well-known industry experts and teachers who often have many years of experienced in your field of study. Besides being able to meet the people you study about, you also stand to gain valuable lessons that you can’t learn from a textbook. With opportunities like these, arts schools like NAFA and LASALLE are interested in growing their students’ innate creativity and talent. Moreover, if you have a look at their entry requirements in our earlier infographic, they put less emphasis on academic achievements, and instead, use interviews and portfolios as their main assessment for admissions. In comparison, admission into polytechnics is mainly on an aggregate score basis. This means that if you don’t do too well in your ‘O’ levels, you have a poorer chance of being admitted into a polytechnic.  Nonetheless, polytechnic students have broader post-diploma opportunities, because a diploma from one of the five polytechnics can be used for admission into a local university. TL;DR, it boils down to what you’re interested in. Polytechnics offer a more general education, with electives that let’s you try out different modules, while NAFA and LASALLE specialises in the arts. For more information about your post-secondary choices, be sure to read our discussion of the polytechnic versus junior college debate, and the difference between the ‘A’ levels and the International Baccalaureate diploma. We also have ‘O’ Level Results 2015: The Ultimate Guide! Good luck with your decision and remember to leave us a comment telling us how it went!
NAFA LASALLE Polytechnics (Singapore, Temasek, Nanyang, Ngee Ann, Republic)
Performing and Fine Arts -Dance -Music -Theatre (English Drama) -Theatre (Mandarin Drama) -Fine Art -Music -Dance -Performance -Fine Arts -Applied Drama and Psych (SP)
Design -Fashion Design -Fashion Merchandising and Marketing -Fashion Design -Apparel Design & -Merchandising (TP)
-Design (Furniture & Spatial) -Design (Interior & Exhibition) -Design (Landscape & Architecture) -Interior Design -Interior Architecture & Design (TP) -Retail & Hospitality Design (TP)­ -Environment Design (TP) -Space and Interior Design (NYP) -Landscape Design & Horticulture (NP) -Interior Design (SP) -Landscape Architecture (SP)
-Design (Object & Jewellery) -Product Design -Product & Industrial Design (TP) -Industrial Design (NYP) -Product Design & Innovation (NP) -Experience & Product Design (SP) -Design for User Experience (RP)
Media Studies -Advertising -Screen media -Graphic Communication -Broadcast Media -Design Communication -Film, Sound & Video (NP) -Advertising & Public Relations (NP) -Media & Communication (SP) -Digital Film &Television (TP) -Communications & Media Management (TP) -Media Production & Design (RP) -Mass Communications (NP, RP)
-Illustration design with Animation -Technical & Production Management -Animation -Audio production -Audio-visual technology (NP) -Animation & 3D Arts (NP) -Multimedia & Animation (NP) -Digital Animation (SP) -Visual Effects & Animation (NYP) -Sonic Arts (RP)
Arts Management & Education -Arts Management -Art Teaching -Music Teaching None -Arts Business Management (NP) -Arts & Theatre Management (RP)
Sources: Singapore Polytechnic Temasek Polytechnic Republic Polytechnic Nanyang Polytechnic Ngee Ann Polytechnic Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts LASALLE College of the Arts Image credit: Things Organized Neatly Vincenzo  

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