Students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will have their route to advanced certification shortened from four years to three.
Starting next year, 16 ITE courses will transition to a curriculum structure that will see students go straight through to Higher Nitec courses and earn the certification in three years.
About 2,000 students are expected to enrol in these 16 courses in 2022.
The new curriculum structure will replace the current system of two years at the Nitec level followed by another two years for the Higher Nitec.
The move was announced by Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman on Friday (April 30) at the launch of a new training centre at ITE College East, called the ITE- Sembcorp Centre for Sustainable Solutions.
The 16 courses form the first phase of a transition that will see all courses moving to the three-year Higher Nitec programme by 2026.
The programmes picked comprise eight Nitec courses and eight Higher Nitec courses.
They cover three clusters and have a wide range of entry requirements to better cater to the diverse range of students who enter ITE, said a Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesman.
The ministry said 80 per cent of all courses that ITE offers are expected to transition to the new three-year Higher Nitec structure by 2024, with all courses completing the move by 2026.
"This move is in line with the Ministry of Education's commitment to provide opportunities for all ITE graduates to upgrade beyond a Nitec over the course of their careers by 2030, as announced by the Prime Minister during the National Day Rally in 2019," said Dr Maliki, who has been leading a review of polytechnic and ITE education since the end of last year.
Dr Maliki, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, added that the curriculum structure will be streamlined by removing overlapping areas of teaching in the current Nitec and Higher Nitec courses.
ITE currently offers the Nitec and Higher Nitec courses separately. Students who finish their Nitec level must apply to enrol in a Higher Nitec course.
Students take four years to graduate with Nitec and Higher Nitec certificates .
However, some students - including those who do well academically during their Nitec years and those who apply with O-level certificates - have been able to take shorter routes towards a Higher Nitec certification.
Currently, 46 per cent of students who finish at the Nitec level do not enrol in a Higher Nitec course immediately.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that some students go on to work full-time, or progress to polytechnic diplomas or work-study diploma programmes. Some also do not make the grade for Higher Nitec courses with their Nitec results.
But there are others who return to do their Higher Nitec after working for a few years.
MOE said that although students will be encouraged to finish the full three years under the new curriculum structure, those who have to leave after two years will still be granted the Nitec certification.
There is no specific timeframe for students to return to ITE to finish their Higher Nitec certification.
"We hope that with more bursary support that started in 2020, students will not have to leave due to financial reasons, and they get to enjoy the full three years of the programme," said an MOE spokesman.
"Our students are very young when they go out to work; they have a whole 40, 45 years of work ahead of them.
"We are more than happy to support them when they want to come back and to readmit them in the future," added the spokesman.