Thanks to an email from LYL, I'm now much more enlightened about the structure of Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSM/MSJCs) in Malaysia.
There are about 33 MJSCs throughout Malaysia... For the upper sec (Form 4 & 5), there are 4 MJSCs classified as PKP, acronym for Program Khas Pendidikan, or Special Education Programmes. They are Jasin, Langkawi, Taiping and Pengkalan Chepa, ranked academically achievement (SPM) wise in that order. While Jasin and Langkawi as well as Kolej Yayasan Saas (KYS) constantly rank in the top 5 ( in recent years top 3) for the SPM results, the other 2 PKP rank around 8 to 15. The other normal ones fare worse, although still being in the top 100. Requirements for these PKP schools included straight As for PMR as well as scoring well in the entrance [examination], and for those who attended MJSCs in their lower form, achieving a CGPA of 3.2 and above.It also appears that these schools "secures" the best teachers in the country. The qualifications required of the teachers appears to be fairly demanding. Interestingly enough, it may put some of universities to shame - the head of departments are all PhD holders and former Professors or Assistant Professors at the universities.
Although our national sylabus is in the midst of a long decline, I would like to inform you about certain unique programmes offered in these PKPs. As an example, in my school, the smarter people have an option of taking accelerated courses, as well as skipping classes to pursue personal interests. In my school for instance, I am given the choice to skip maths, add maths, physics, english, and est. I have also self studied as well as joined special classes for maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and economics. I as well as a handful of others also have to lecture to the academically challenged people in remedial classes. We also have special programmes like The [Gifted] Group. Basically those in it get access to loads of stuffs as well as a lot of help to pursue personal interest.
Other than that, all the upper form MJSCs run a US formulated programme called Student Enrichment Module (SEM), where we are required to do produce a thesis. This programme runs from the middle of the form 4 year to the start of the form 5 year. Students may do this individually or in a group. This programme gives those who has interest in science to go forth and research for a thesis, although most of them opt to produce less demanding thesises like presentations, reports and stuffs like poems, anthologies etc.
Now to our faculty. To qualify to teach in my school, one has to have a minimum of two of the criteria below:The MJSCs were not just pure academic institutions but also excelled in sports and other activities.
Most of our teachers have all 3 though. Needless to say, they are really really good. To illustriate this point, I shall put it this way - In every 10 teachers, about 5 are Guru Pakar and 2 are Guru Cemerlang. This being said, most schools dont even have one of either. Other than that, our teachers have won numerous teaching awards like Toray, Intel, etc etc. We have 4 head of departments - Science, Humanities, Languages and Maths, who all hold PhDs and were ex professors/assoc profs in universities.
- have years of marking the SPM paper
- minimum teaching experience of 25 years
- graduated from a foreign uni in the subject you teach/ related
Well, sports in my school is quite a big thing too. We have our bunch of good athletes, and for my batch, our football team was the best in Malacca. Yes, watching local school football was actually and seriously fun. Our rugby team was listed in the top 10 non semiprofessional teams in Malaysia ( this includes university teams). We have some medalists who participated in the MSSM in athletics, basketball ( ahem ahem), rugby and football. School spirit and pride is definitely there.Thanks to the plegde given in the last general elections, the MJSCs provided 10% of places to non-bumiputeras, permitting LYL to secure his place at MJSC (Jasin). Now, after completing his SPM and 20 months at the MJSC, LYL is at the moment contemplating his various options for his pursuit of higher education at the top universities of the world.
It was worth noting that enrolling into the MJSC was against LYL's parent's advice, in full knowledge of the potential unequal treatment he may receive at these institutions as a non-bumiputera. Despite the odds, he completed his studies as with a CGPA of 3.93 winning various prizes and medals (silver medals for the national chem and physics quiz, 3rd placing in the state for the star compquiz, 2nd placing in the computer science/engineering category for the young scientist fair 2004, 2nd for the same competition in physics, 2005, high distinction in the maths olympiad, etc. etc.) Yes, and before he gets accused of being a total nerd, he also played basketball for Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. I'm extremely impressed, not to mention the fact that he puts me to shame. :-)
So, for those who have read the post by Kian Ming on the pros of studying in Singapore, the MJSC (Jasin) do sound a tad similar to Raffles Insitution in Singapore and looks like a good school to go to, if you can get in.
Good luck to LYL for all his future endeavours, and hopefully he'll be able to contribute his talents to the country some day in the future.