Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More On 3+0 Courses

There was a question raised by a reader for my earlier post on “Speed Up Your Pursuit of Higher Education (II)”, which I thought should be raised here as a new post so that it will not be missed by other readers.

I would like to ask, is STPM, 'A' Levels or equivalent as the foundation for entering universities only? Will it be any problem, if a student can catch up the course without having STPM, 'A' Levels or equivalent level?

In my earlier posts, I’ve argued strongly against taking part in 3+0 courses due to various reasons. Basically the reader asked if it is possible for students to take 3+0 courses after SPM but still graduate strongly as he or she could make up for the shorter time frame through possibly more intensive course structure and teaching as well as additional hardwork by the student to make up for the “shortened” time frame.

Theoretically, of course, it’s possible. There are after all geniuses abound in the country. That’s why sometimes you hear of prodigies qualifying for Ivy League universities at 13 or something like that.

However, in practical terms, it’s not likely for 2 simple reasons:

Firstly, I would like to hazard a guess that 99.9% of the population, myself included, do not fall into the academic prodigy category – i.e. we are not that smart. Smart as we may be, we still need the necessary amount of time to absorb, understand and comprehend in depth the various aspects of the various subjects and topics of our degree programme.

Let me put it another way, despite having gone through 2 full years of ‘A’ Levels at one of the top institutions in Singapore, I still had to work pretty damn hard to do well for my degree in Oxford. If the top universities of the world require that extra 1-2 years, I don’t see how these private colleges could claim to be “world-class”, if they accept students into a degree programme without yet having the right foundations.

The logical (please do not take this in a condescending manner, it’s not meant to be) conclusion to this is, the only reason why a candidate can secure a degree in 3 years immediately after his or her SPM, is that the course is significantly easier and “watered down”. It is a “cheaper” certificate in all sense of the word.

Secondly, I dare say that none of the courses offered by the local colleges as part of the 3+0 schemes are of the necessary high standards and quality to make up for the significantly shortened time frame. For example, students still get the same holidays as the others instead of taking part in more intensive courses to “catch up”.

In fact I dare say, that the rigour of the courses taught for these 3+0 degrees are likely to be less than that of STPM level! What this means is that it’s probably easier to pass the 3+0 programmes, than to do credibly for STPM examinations. This is probably one of the major reasons attributing to the popularity of the 3+0 or even the 3+1 programmes.

After all, since it’s so easy to obtain a “degree”, why should I bother to “struggle” through a difficult STPM and still don’t get my degree qualifications?

What students fail to consider is that while they do “graduate” with a “degree”, it’s one of poorer quality both in the eyes of many employers (like myself) as well as the student’s personal growth in terms of knowledge, skills, critical thinking and analysis faculties. Read the case study of regret from one such student in my earlier post.

Hence to summarise once again – yes, it’s definitely “possible” to cramp all the education of STPM (and equivalent) as well as a good quality degree into a 3+0 programme. However it’s likely to be possible only in theory, as not that many of us are academic prodigies, and the current offerings of 3+0 programmes in the market do not give me any confidence at all. Strong SPM students should definitely give them a miss.


Anonymous said...

It also depends very much on the course you are taking. I can't imagine SPM students doing tough subejects like e.g. physics or maths in Oxbridge without doing STPM or A levels where further maths is preferred.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Tony in this.

Once did ask a friend took a 3+0 degree in engineering whether he learned fast fourier transform in his maths, he asked "what the hell is that?"

Crashed course as it is, some important syllabus are skipped an not thought. Basically without going thru the adv maths in STPM or A levels, you won't be able to pick up complex and hard to understand maths concepts.

Even if you are borned genius, it is a waste and not worth going thru' crashed courses that are designed for the average person.

If they are designed for genius? How many do you think will pass?

Think about it!

Anonymous said...

With regard to Anonymous' comment, it's not just the 3+0. I went through Monash Uni's Electrical Engineering degree course in the 1980s, supposedly one of the top EE courses in the world at that time, and I still don't know what a "fast fourier tranform" is. We used LaPlace (if I can still remember the spelling) tranforms to solve some integral problems, and heard of Fourier Tranforms but never had to use them, but nobody ever mentioned fast fourier tranforms.

rusty engineering degree holder

Anonymous said...

Well currently doing Telecom Engineering at UNSW( No 1 enginnering school in Australia according to THES 2005) and have learned Laplace and Fourier Transforms but not Fast Fourier. I don't know if i will encounter it later on but a graduate explained to me that FFT is just to find the inverse of DFT.

Have to agree on the statement 'the course is significantly easier and “watered down”. It is a “cheaper” certificate in all sense of the word'. I have a friend that himself admitted the course(3+0) that he is doing at Bioinformatics College is very easy and he can pass everything by hardly putting any real effort. Once he told me that he failed one critical subject by a few marks but he got himself a pass after a few 'shoes polishing' with the lecturer.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I don't know any colleges offering a 3+0 program straight after SPM. Most requires students to take foundation in that broad range of subjects (i.e. those wanting to take accountancy in Taylors would have to do a 1 year Business Foundation before moving on to the three year program).

The only program you can go straight into without some sort of pre-U program is the American Degree Program. However, the first two years, you study a broad range of subjects before moving on to subjects actually related to your major after the second year. Essentially, pre-U in ADP is moot; most American students go into similar programs at home merely with a High School Diploma.

Anonymous said...

FFT is a fast and practical way of implementing the Fourier Transform on digital data using computer (if I remember correctly)
it wasn't in my maths either (EE at a local u) but I picked it up while doing some signal processing project. You can easily find the code for a FFT, it's not more than one page.
universities can't possibly teach you everything. comments like "they didn't teach me such and such so they suck" are very superficial. what's important is that they teach you the basics in order for you to be able to pick up more knowledge on your own. hence you learn the basic fourier transform, but not fft.

as for private institutions, it's possible that some to teach less (neglecting the basics) so that it's easier to pass in order to keep the passing rate high... have to survive, mah...