Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mara Junior Science Colleges: A Peek

All of us (at least I am) are probably, at one point or another, a little confused by all the various education streams and routes of the diverse educational institutions in Malaysia. We know that there is the vernacular education system comprising of goverment aided Chinese and Tamil primary schools, community funded Chinese secondary schools, the national primary and secondary schools as well as the lesser understood, and more elusive Matriculation colleges and Mara schools.

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.

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.
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.
Now to our faculty. To qualify to teach in my school, one has to have a minimum of two of the criteria below:
  1. have years of marking the SPM paper
  2. minimum teaching experience of 25 years
  3. graduated from a foreign uni in the subject you teach/ related
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.
The MJSCs were not just pure academic institutions but also excelled in sports and other activities.
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.


Anonymous said...


These are the kind of people we need most. Congrats to the guy :) it is indeed impressive.
May you contribute more to the future.


Anonymous said...

Behind the demoncratization of education facilities, there is
always the existence of elitism in education..

I read once before (not recall which printed material, but mostly some US magazine..)... elitism is unavoided as the world scientific progress is propelled by the world top 5% scientists...

Again...this revelation only serve to remind our Malaysian leaders that meritocratic should be upheld for our local IPTAs.

Let the most deserving students (whom have potentials judging from their STPM or pre-u results) to get their deserving courses..

Let them have the chance to unleash their human potentials and serve Malaysian interest.....


Anonymous said...

this is extremely encouraging, but 10% of the quota to non-bumis?? that does not make up the right division of the malaysian population.

honestly, i don't have much against setting quotas and the like, but it has to be done accordingly to its distribution ratio. only then can it be justifiable and accepted to all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony,

Ive read the post. that was quite a nice write up, but erm.... I would like to comment that you seem to create the illusion that all the other MJSCs are as equal too. :/ Hm... this isnt true actually, and that such teaching facilities are only limited to the PKP ones only. The normal MJSCs only have normal teachers, and mayb one or 2 guru pakar/cemerlang.

Also, you did not point out that even though these students are very good academically, only about 10% or less can speak fluently in english - thus not solving the unemployment problems in the country. Also, about 30 % of the students receive various forms of Fast track/ scholarships programmes post SPM trials to pursue engineering, medicine, sciences and accountancy in UTM , UTP, UiTM, and russia ( medicine). This contributes to the lack of medicine places for STPM people. Also, almost all the other will enrol to matriculation colleges.

A lot of the people also end up getting JPAs or MARA scholarships post SPM.

Btw, our results also come with a price. We are not allowed to take extra subjects - because a few years back, some idiot took econs and got a C, plunging us out of the top 5. Hence, such controlling policies were implimented hitherto. I myself am only taking 10 subjects. I would have taken 13 or maybe 14 instead were I still in my old school.

It isnt all sunshine there. :)


Anonymous said...

There is a generally a cloak of secrecy surrounding many of the residential schools in this country particularly amongst the non-bumi community as they are virtually unknown amongst this community.

I was one of the rare non-bumi enrolled back in the 80s into a residential school. I'm not sure whether the situation has changed but in terms of teachers, facilities, infra etc. we were much superior compared to many schools outside. In my 6th form, I was back into a normal day school and had a culture shock when I compared facilities they had (even for 6th form) compared to my Alma mater...

Many of what LYL says is probably reflective of the actual situation today.

Anonymous said...

CGPA 3.93 doesn't seem to compare very much to the long queues of MJSC students who achieve CGPA 4.0 and getting the public universities says the minister of higher education.

Anonymous said...

dear daniel,

i wish not to defend myself but merely state that, most of the people get 4.0 at the matriculation level, not at secondary level. :) And noone in my school achieved a CGPA of 4.0 for form 4 and form 5 in my graduating year. In fact, only 2 people graduated with a CGPA of 4.0 in the past 10 years from MJSC Jasin.

Also, the academic standard isnt the same in all the MJSCs. It is far easier to get a better grade at non PKP MJSCs. A friend who transfered out from Jasin to Muadzam Shah went from 2.7 to 3.8 in just a term. :)

And keep in mind those that go to matriculation are actually considered the 2nd class people - because they didnt get scholarships/fast track programmes post trials , hence making matriculation their only choice.

I would also like to comment on the wide known fact that the matriculation syllabus isnt of par to the STPM. This is true, as I have studied the Maths and Physics syllabus of both these courses.Sad really...


KY said...

one of the reasons why so many of us has to go overseas despite how handsomely our education system is funded.

Anonymous said...

For every one of the guru cemerlang that goes to these schools, that's one less for the normal school system. You can't be overly impressed with the system and at the same time criticise our national school system. It's a matter of resource allocation, if all the best go to teach the best (mostly from one race), then the rest of us have to either make do with what's left or go somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

LYL comments is ....
typical of an idealist in an ideal situation

He is indeed a lucky one
But will he find that there is no level playing field in the working arena especially in the world arena,
he will singing the blues.

I grsduated top of my U in my year.. finally where did it land me.. not the gomen sector becos I jz cant get promoted.
well u can say the pay is better but the stess is worse.
But finally it is not where u get ur education but what u learn "from the school of hard knocks" that will make u a better person.

I believe that although many of us from conventional school may not have such a presitigious degree but finally we will make it ...but to my surprised not in this country but some foreign lands..

Why is it may normal person with normal education with "superhuman effort and dedication" must go to a foreign land to make it big.
Many Malaysian in UK Aust even Singapore who r very famous, who was educated humbly in Malaysia, but there a so few of us in Malaysia even form famous U oversaes who is recognised internationally.
The answer did not lie in the education system but it is in the working environment and the recognition for the "superhuman effort and dedication" to their work. that is sadly missing in our country.

Anonymous said...

LYL, sorry you didn't catch the sarcasm in my comments, which wasn't meant to belittle your achievements. Read the last phrase again..."so says the minister of higher education."

clk said...

I was also fortunate to have attended a residential school many moons ago although I was a minority in the school going by race.

As far as I knew it then, we fought "tooth and nail" with some of the top bumi students during my SPM days. In my final year, the best student was a bumi-chap whom we all knew deserved it as he was consistent in his studies and worked like hell as well. Given the right conditions, the school was able to bring out the best in a student. Bumi or non-bumi, there are good and bad ones out there.

It's the politicians who think (or choose to think) that the bumis out here can't compete and take advantage of the situation by prolonging the mentality subsidy.

Anonymous said...

I believe the MARA system is to help the "non-compliant" of the social competition.
long time ago, there are the need to have this helping hand, but today the helping hand become"tongkat" already.
Sincerely for "Malay", to progress, you must suffer..... no the others suffer....

Anonymous said...

well i'm a MARA student myself. i'm from langkawi (if that is of any help) and i think the system has really improved.

and the mock interview has helped with the 10% people who speak fluent english problem. and plus it's a tradition for us to each and every one participate in an interhomeroom debate.

but i rather agree that 10% non bumis is unfair. i'd love to see the faces of some non malays around too. especially if you're in bitara (like langkawi) it's 100% malays and yes i do get tired of it sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Stated in NST pg 4 dated 19.2.08 - DPM to provide aid for the poor MRSM students...obviously there are 90% bumi's in this college. Where is the justification. This is racism. Are the funds extracted from non-bumi tax payers!!!

Dr. Harmony said...


I'm still studying right now and I'm one of the PKP's student. It seems that there are so many rumours I heard that people comment about the students of MJSC..

Most of yhe comments are about their commonucation skills, their results and others more.. Maybe its just what u all guys thought about MARA education longx2 before..

MAybe it seems to be different now.. For me ,the education systems of MARA really helps me to improve myself., eventhough sometimes my frens said that I'm not expose to real world atosphere..

But, I still connected to the outside world by the newspapers and internets..

I believe that most of the MARA students will survive when they had finish studied at their colloges..