Sunday, December 18, 2005

Speed Up Your Pursuit of Higher Education (II)

Yesterday, I wrote on some simple tips for SPM and STPM graduates to take into consideration before opting for their choice of colleges. This was particularly important due to the clutter of unabashed self-glorifying advertisements private colleges are prone to carry these days often misleading students and parents.

The other aspect of the commercialised private education which I'd like to warn students about is the current prevalence of "3+0" and "3+1" type courses offered.

There was a question raised to Tan Sri Yahaya Ibrahim who is the pro-chancellor of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, founding president of the National Association of Private and Independent Educational Institutions Malaysia (NAIPEI), and a past president of the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (MAPCU) by the Sun as to whether "the move to allow universities and universities colleges without twinning track record to run 3+0 and 4+0 programmes?"

Tan Sri Yahaya defended the move by arguing that:
... this doesn't mean every college will now be immediately granted approval to run 3+0 or 4+0 degrees. They have to meet stringent criteria. It's likely only the established ones with track records in running degrees can meet these requirements. Therefore we shouldn't be alarmed. In fact it shows that the private higher education industry is maturing, and that the Government is confident of its ability to ensure that quality is maintained.
(Read more about my other comments with regards to the article here.)
I seek to disagree. The fact that the government has "liberalised" further the running of these programmes is a matter of commercial pressures from organisations such as NAIPEI and MAPCU, rather than the fact the the "education industry is maturing" in Malaysia. The fact is, that even the current batch of 3+0 programmes are churning out graduates that are finding difficulty securing and maintaining employment.

To me the reasons are two-fold:
  • Firstly, these courses are often poor because, they are neither training graduates who are "skilled" (e.g., like those should be from a typical polytechnic), nor are they providing sufficient academic rigour for them to have strong critical thinking and analytical capabilities required of a typical university graduate.

  • And secondly, barring exceptional exceptions, the "speed" at which the students obtain their degree gives them way insufficient time to acquire the necessary knowlegde and thinking skills to match those who undertake the traditional "2+3" or "1+4" route to securing their degrees.
I've previously written on the same topic once in response to an advertisement by Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (Unitar). However, given that it's tertiary education hunting season, I thought I'd just serve up another reminder to candidates to have their eyes wide open when reviewing courses which attempts to serve up a degree in a silver platter at the fastest possible time.

The most important thing, which I cannot emphasise strong enough, is there is absolutely no necessity to hurry through your tertiary education. Do not be fooled by the various (3+0) programmes offered by many of the local colleges. Yes, you do obtain your degrees faster, by at the most 2 years - but you may end up with poorer qualification as well as weaker recognition from employers. The quality of your education and where you obtain your degree affects your entire life and career, hence the addition year or two to prepare for tertiary education at the better universities is definitely worth the wait.

Let me quote an email which I have received recently from a former student who went through the "3+1" route (trust me, 3+0 is almost generally worse):
I fully agree with you that I was in a hurry to graduate straight after my SPM exams... Being young and naive at 18 years of age, I thought at the time that all degrees were basically of equal standing... Unfortunately, I chose to take the easy way out - a 1 yr pre-foundation leading to admission of the comp science degree at INTI College (Twinning with Coventry). Big mistake. I realised midway through that I simply wasn't getting a good education at INTI, but since I was already halfway through and have already spent the fees and more importantly the time, I just stayed on.
To prove my point, you will not find reputable top universities in the United Kingdom accepting students (under normal procedures) based on SPM, 'O' Levels or equivalent qualitifications. The minimum acceptable levels will be based on STPM, 'A' Levels or equivalent. The reasons are simple, after SPM, students are still not sufficiently prepared for tertiary education.

For the United States, entries to top universities are typically based on SAT examinations. Hence technically, you should be able to gain direct entry even after SPM. However, you'd probably find that if you have completed further secondary education post SPM, the chances are that you would score better for your SAT and hence gain entry into better US universities.

Many of these colleges will advertise the fact that these programmes are recognised by the Government and accredited by the Lembaga Akreditasi Nasional (LAN). You should note that this accredition is not a seal of quality. LAN "was legally established in 1996 to certify minimum standards and accreditation of programmes conducted in private colleges and universities." As quoted and italicised - as long as these programmes meet "minimum" standards, they obtain certification. It is by no means a seal representing the quality of the institution or programme.

Hence, I can only repeat my advice here - if you are considering undergoing any of the 3+0 programmes, think again really really hard. The smarter you are (which to a certain extent is determined by your SPM results), the more likely the shortfalls will be for these "speedy" programmes for you.

I repeat once again, the quality of your education and where you obtain your degree affects your entire life and career, hence the addition year or two to prepare for tertiary education at the better universities is definitely worth the wait.

OK, got to go pack my bags for the short trip to China now. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Actually I agree with the author that students should not rushed to graduate with a degree in a shorter time.

Some think coming out younger would advanced others one year's experience. I think that is an unwise judgement.

I'm not sure about others but in Engineering, the board of engineers malaysia (BEM) does not register graduates if they had not gone through the basic four-year engineering degree. So there is not point taking an engineering degree if you can't register at the BEM.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that 3+0's are nowhere as good as being there yourself. Personally, I think the same quality of student population and study environment is the one thing that cannot be duplicated, no matter how good your local lecturers are...

Having said that, the 3+0 scheme is sometimes the only option available when you want to do a course which you really want, without worrying about govt. allocation of spaces in a public Uni, and worrying about cost of living and high tuition fees abroad.

I myself am a product of the 3+0 degree (After A-levels), and I was in a situation where I had to take my degree in the midst of the Asian economic crisis. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that the 3+0 programme provided me.

Anonymous said...

yes, the reasons why some "top" students or even above-average ones, heck, even average students take the 3+0 programmes is simply because they were not given a chance to enrol to a proper university - whether local or private. going overseas is expensive, so they have to settle for the "next best thing" - a foreign awarded degree conducted locally.

at least those enrolled at the "higher-end" local private colleges like Taylor's , Sunway, and INTI College is not as bad as those coming from Institute xxxxxxx based in a shop-lot. there are thousands of students graduating from SPM each year, and there can only be that many scholarships and places at public unis. the 3+0 is really the next best thing.

the problem here is that the colleges are not properly regulated. the standards are poor. even basic communication skills are not taught properly.

the 3+0 programmes, unfortunately, has to continue to meet the demands of malaysia's human resource requirements.

Anonymous said...

If you are worry about employment after "3+0" or "3+1" courses, then try to train as an internationally recognized nurse.

Many doctors in the Philippines are retraining themselves as qualified nurses in order to take up a relatively well-paid nursing career in developed countries. Nurses are in demand there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tony,

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 wihtout having STPM, 'A' Levels or equivalent level?

Anonymous said...


I'm a student who has completed O levels in Singapore last year and now I'm studying foundation in one of the private colleges in Australia. However, after finishing a semester over there, I realised that the foundation studies in Australia is actually aren't very good. As a result, now I'm thinking of stopping my studies in Australia. I'm now considering going to US to pursue my studies. Is there any suggestions that you can provide me because now I have really no idea of where I should go to. Do you think going to US to study a year of prep school a good choice? Thank you.