Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ASEAN Scholarship - A Life's Experience

Readers out there are probably aware that both Kian Ming and myself, who are both loyal and dedicated Malaysians, were both products of the Singapore, or more specifically, the Rafflesian secondary school system, courtesy of the Asean Scholarship. I've written about it a year ago here, whilst Kian Ming wrote on the pros of the Singapore education system here.

But I thought, instead of just listening to both of us, have a read at Charlotte's experience, which she has published on her blog. Charlotte's a final year engineering student at Imperial College under a Scholarship from a Malaysian corporation. I can only say that her words were true to me, and if there were that many scholars who actually shared the same experience despite a total gap between Charlotte, Kian Ming and myself of more than a dozen years - then surely, the Asean Scholars' experience is a fairly consistent one.

Her post certainly struck a chord when she talked about her teachers, the rich extra-curricular activities, the "competition" and even the facilities. She posed the hypothetical question if she would do it all over again, and the answer as affirmative. Mine will certainly be the same.

But the most thankful thing (in my opinion anyway) I found in her post? It was in her last paragraph:
Deep down, I'm patriotically Malaysian by nature and I still snigger at Singaporean news from time to time, however I can't deny that Singapore gave me a chance to see things from a different perspective, while Malaysia is continuously trying to pull wool over my eyes. Would I do it all over again? Any day, baby, any day.
Yes, Singapore gave me a different perspective and certainly opened up the world to me in a way which I'm not sure if the Malaysian secondary education system could. However, it's that experience which I've gathered and earned which I wish to share and contribute to further the development and betterment of all Malaysians.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that an education in top Singapore schools is generally superior in terms of facilities and teachers( maybe other reasons), I do feel that at the Junior College level, the playing field is not as equal as it would seem to be.

In my case, I wasn't sent to the top 5 junior colleges in Singapore.While,the teaching quality in my college was definitely superior to my secondary school, I felt that there was a serious problem associated with being sent to these schools. Firstly, the chances available to my school was rather limited. Worse still, my subject choices sent me to a sub-par class that further limited the opportunities available to me. All to often , I would see scholars or peers who were sent to better classes getting opportunities only opened to them. I did ask for such opportunities through my teachers but the only reply came that they too, did not know of such activities or competitions.

I would also like to point out that the pursue for tertiary education in Top colleges is much easier due to the reputation it possesses.It was shocking for me to note that only one Ivy league school and Stanford visited my school. No other top universities from UK or US came to my college. This is made worse by the fact that almost all the top universities do visit only the top colleges in Singapore.Visit here to see.

It would also be interesting to note that Raffles, being an independent school does have more CCAs available to its students.However,I cannot confirm whether it is due to more funding or otherwise. This is around two to three times more than what is available in my school.

My post is a reminder to those who are applying to Singapore to carefully examine the opporunities available should they decide to take up the challenge in Singapore.

Dinner now, will complain more later..ahh I learn to complain from our dear neighbours...

Kian Ming said...

Dear lalaland,

Perhaps you can clarify for us why you weren't sent to a top 5 JC (Raffles, Hwa Chong, Victoria, Tampines and National)? I thought that almost all ASEAN scholars get sent to either one of theses JCs? Some also get sent to ACJC, while not one of the top 5 JCs, is certainly not one of the unknown ones either. Perhaps you're from a more recent batch of scholars who get sent to Anderson JC?

On another note, while Raffles Institution is an independent and private secondary school (which explains the high school fees and larger number of options in terms of ECAs), Raffles Junior College is not an independent junior college, as far as I know. It might receive slightly more funding compared to the other JCs but I don't think the ECAs in RJ is very different from the other top JCs in Singapore (or from other JCs, for that matter)

Anonymous said...

I am currently an ASEAN scholar studying in Hwa Chong JC. I am extremely satisfied with my education and I can safely say that I would not have received as much intellectual or character development in Malaysia.

One difference between me and you, Kian Ming or Charlotte, though, is that I will most likely not go back to work in Malaysia. I will probably settle down in Singapore. Why should I go back to poorly-governed Malaysia which systematically discriminates in favour of Malays and has done nothing for me other than provide a primary education?

Singapore, on the other hand, has welcomed me a scholar, provided me with an excellent education and sustained me for 6 years (I don't receive a single cent from my parents to study here - all my expenses are derived from my scholarship pocket money). Naturally my loyalties now lie more with Singapore than Malaysia.

Therein lies the cause of Malaysia's inferiority to Singapore - it does not know how to treasure its talents. Its leaders are largely incompetent and corrupt, and spend more time devising ways to unfairly advantage the Malays over other races.
Perhaps compared to you, my roots in Malaysia are not deep because I lived in JB and imbibed Singaporean television since young. But still, I do not understand why I have to be loyal to a country just because I happened to be born there. I'd rather base my loyalties on which country treats me the best/has the most competent government.

P/S: Kian Ming, Tampines JC is not a top five JC. I'm not sure even if it exists. Temasek JC is the one you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

it's a personal choice whether one comes back or not to msia after graduating abroad.(especially if the scholar is not bonded/required to.)

personally, i prefer msia despite the many shortcomings or imperfections. But should any of my children choose another place, be it, new york or bora-bora, i would say "go for it". the world's a huge place and self-fulfillment can be had anywhere, not just spore.

nevertheless, it wld saddened me to have then "dissed" msia just bcuz they admire another country more.

we've lived in asia and europe and i'm glad to say that they've been able to accept the good and the bad of the many places they've lived in.

prejudices, discrimination, can be found everywhere, not just in msia.

Anonymous said...

For your information, since 2003, the intake into RJC for direct scholars has reduced from the norm of over 10 to only 2 per year. No reason was given for this but I suspect that it is due to the start of the Integrated Programme.

With the dramatic reduction of direct scholars into top JCs, especially RJC and for my year HCI, scholars are now sent to other JCs . Note that MOE states that scholarship holders are sent to "top" junior colleges. The definition is very 10? there are only 15 or so here( guessing here )

There has been a long tradition of MOE sending students to AJC and I know that the Anderson boys used to stay at RI boarding until 2002/3.Information from my classmate from RI.

er.., Raffles Junior College just became an independent school.
Quoted from RJC website:

RJC applied to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for independent status and was granted approval to be an independent Junior College with effect from 1 January 2005.

Again,my same RI friend told me about the ECA stuff. I didn't believe it until I started counting from their official website and compared it with my school annual.

A hint for you to know where I studied would be to label your school as Ghim Moh Junior College. Who else would bother to label that? Sigh...cover broken.

Malaysia is still where I will go back though. Food is MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH BETTER THAN SINGAPORE( don't say that I am lousy at finding good food)

Anonymous said... the first ANON,
your school is now called HCI.

2.RJC school fees for locals(e.g. Singaporeans) is expensive as in it is in the hundreds, possibly 200 to 300, can't really point an exact figure but will update soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony & friends who have benefited from Asean Scholarships,

I do congratulate all those who were able to benefit from the generosity of the Singapore government. But it is not always the case. I have taught several of the top students who, after 2 weeks in Singapore under the Asean scholarship, did not like it at all. They came back to Malaysia to join a local university. I can assure you these few are really top students and 2 of them have since won international scholarships to do their PhD degrees overseas. Another is now doing very well locally in an American MNC serving global clients.

Richard G.

Anonymous said...

RJC school fees is set to rise to $300 in 2008 for JC1 and JC2.

Visit here,

Kian Ming said...

Thanks for pointing out my mistake on TJ. (embarassed laugh) I remember it as TJ and mistakenly put Tampines instead of Temasek. Yes, Tampines JC does exist.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:28:57 PM,

As you said, it is a personal choice to come back to Malaysia or not. Prejudice, discrimination, can be found everywhere.

But if the government itself is prejudice and discriminate against its own citizens, I'm wondering if that could be termed as 'shortcomings or imperfections'.

I would think it deserves to be represented with stronger words such as: 'ridiculous' or other unacceptable profanities.

Anonymous said...

in every country or society there are bound to be groups or sections of the society that feel disadvantaged/discriminated against by those in power.

some discriminations are more overt than others (so, many have found ways to circumvent them). The insidious ones are harder to deal with, don't u think.

anyways, we are now iving in a "borderless" world. the gobal economy beckons with the promise of fulfilling lives beyond "familiar" territory.

so, gd luck. while it is yr prerogative to use profanities to describe yr feelings in relation to yr country, i don't share yr motivation.

lk the weary traveler who traversed the world to find what he was looking for right at home, i
choose to see them as "imperefections".

H J Angus said...

The Asean scholarships have definitely caused a brain drain from Malaysia.

A family friend from Ipoh had 5 out of 6 children awarded the ASEAN scholarship.

If you want the ASEAN award make sure your children are not PRs as I suspect some preference is given to non-PRs

Anonymous said...

Malaysians who are already studying in Singapore are automatically considered for the scholarship and are exempted from the tests and application forms provided that they attend top schools in Singapore and have good results. This is normally given to students who have already studied in Singapore since primary school and taken the PSLE. There are exceptions of students in secondary school obtaining the award. Not sure at the JC level though.

Anonymous said...


Like Kian Ming and Tony, I was also a product of ASEAN Scholarship. While almost everyone has high praise of the ASEAN Scholarship, I do not share such opinion.

I considered those 10 years in Singapore as "wasted years". I'm now back in KL, and happily making a much better living as compared to my ASEAN ex-classmates in Singapore. As mentioned by comments above, it is a personal choice to come back to Malaysia. To me, prejudice, discrimination, can be found everywhere. It's the same in Singapore too. Meritocracy in Singapore?? Maybe,... but if you're female, try applying for Medicine even if you scored full string of A's including Special Papers and see the results yourself.

BTW, during my time, the top 5 includes Temasek JC. Never knew Tampines JC were in the same league. Anderson JC was the 6th and I know they have some small number of ASEAN scholars.

Mark Eleven

Anonymous said...

Tony said "Yes, Singapore gave me a different perspective and certainly opened up the world to me in a way which I'm not sure if the Malaysian secondary education system could."

Interesting comment. I have a completely different experience. I was put into the top class in TJC. My experience was that while all of my Singaporean classmates were good at regurgitating what they memorized from the textbooks, they completely lack of general knowledge outside Singapore. They completely lack of analytical mindset. I still remember my GP teacher asking about the junta in Burma, and no one even know where Burma (or Myanmar as it's known now) is located.

And I find most of them most of them very childish for their age (the ASEAN scholars are one year older, this could contribute to the maturity as compared to Singaporeans). Most of my friends in Malaysia at that time were already talking on investment and business, while my Singaporean classmates were still behaving like Form 3, young pampered students (eg. sitting on the floor singing like children is one favourite activity).

Yes, Singapore indeed gave me a different perspective, and that perspective is that Malaysia is not that bad anyway.

Mark Eleven

Anonymous said...

I'm going to add a page on ASEAN scholarship on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I read Charlotte's experience and I have to say it sounded a lot like the La Sallian brothers school I attended in Malaysia. Teachers cared and particiapted more than completing the content of the text books making school life complete and well rounded.
There was a host of interest one could be a prt of from English lit to photography.
Head prefects campaign and the students vote!! fantastic. We've sadly loss all that.

Anonymous said...

While the experience reported here gave me a fresh perspective to singapore's top JC, I think judging the quality of 'education' in singapore based on academic achievement / quality of teaching alone would not have been a holistic approach.

I had a discussion with a singaporean friend here in UK and I think we agree that while an average product of Singapore education system is likely to be above the passing level, Singapore education system is not the place to produce top business leaders. The mere conform conform conform culture of singapore education system creates what Sim (Creative Lab founder) called No U Turn (NUTS) syndrome. (In Singapore, if there is no sign that says you can U Turn, that means you can't. In US/UK, if it doesn't say you can't, then you CAN).

On the other hand, UK system produces creative top school leavers, but unfortunately, produces a far larger chunk of illiterate school leavers..

At global stage, the top 0.01% Malaysians perform just as well as Top 0.01% singaporean.

Anonymous said...

And oh... I personally believe Singaporean education system (and society) is perfect for a country that needs to develope rapidly from 3rd world to first where the resources can be focused and the people conformed.

Going forward, and going up the value chain, such education system needs to be tweaked and improved. Otherwise, Singapore's competitiveness will be history.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I am one of the scholars who were sent to AJC. I too stayed in the one and only all girls' building in Raffles Institution. Through my experience and interaction with all the other scholars from top JC's in Singapore, their system is quite different from what I have received while in AJC. They emphasized more on understanding the subjects and applying to the questions. What I got was more of an emphasis towards tutorials - lots of tutorials and assignments until I did not have my own time to study on my own instead of finishing up all the workload. Furthermore, I was not sent to one of the top classes in the college despite being a scholar. I did ask them but the answer was, all the classes have the same level. However, the teachers that I got was not as good as the others.
I for one... am not very glad with the system and came back after my A-levels. A few of the other scholars from my batch came back to Malaysia too after that experience.

Anonymous said...

Hi all. I came across this discussion while I was surfing something related to my Singapore experience. I am from HCJC, took the Asean Pre U award after Form 5).Supprisingly, they no longer send direct scholars to HCIJC. I was the last batch. While most flow through scholars ( came to SG since secondary or primary) tend to blend in well in the Singapore community, sometimes it is difficult for students like me to actually get used to the Singapore culture. From my observation, I realised that among all the direct scholars, some direct scholars from a rather Chinese speaking background (Chinese Secondary school, Chinese speaking culture, what ever)have a hard time blending into the English speaking culture of SG. It's rather frustrating for me sometimes to admit that JC life in one of the top JC, is hectic beyond imagination, if a person aspires to reach high. I can get along well with Singaporean friends. However, sometimes its difficult, if not impossible to ask for a favour from them, maybe due to immense pressure and competition. To be able to go to Ivy League schools or Top Universities in the United Kingdom, students have to spend time writing numerous essays, attending numerous talks, fill in application forms and try to find teachers as referrees for the application. On top of that, students going to the US need to take the SAT which is not cheap. SAT is very language bias. It grants students with superior command of English a huge advantage in achieving high scores. My daily life pack with 3 things to do: finish homeworks, study and apply for overseas education. I cannot believed in JC2 I faced examinations every 2 weeks. Block test, annual test, class test, sat test, toefl test, ...... Its really amazing some of my classmates can study SAT while they study for the Physics examination tomorrow. I really cannot do that. I would say the Singapore experience is worth a try for the brave and flexible. I am happy to go through JC life, but I do not want to experience it again.

Anonymous said...

I want to add that a big part of the Asean experience is not just the education (though of course that is central) - but it's the social experience as well.

My batch of scholars at my JC were not really comfortable with the 'scholar' label/aura that we found when we got there. We tried very hard to 'integrate' with our Singaporean classmates, who were indeed nice kids, if a bit studious (it seemed like even the former Malaysian head prefects etc and 'goody-two-shoes' were rebels compared to our Singaporean friends).

However, just due to the nature of things, the Asean scholars did become a more close knit group and we formed friendships that remain to this day (though now it's more like occasional meet-ups). Not that we all got along - we had conflicts and all sorts, but I guess it was a case of bonding under pressure.

As for education, I'd reiterate what someone said about the teachers. Not that we didn't have some good teachers in Malaysia, but my JC teachers were just outstanding. They were dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable... we used to be so impressed by them, and how much work they put in (they would be in the library past the time we were). And while they taught to the test, they were creative, they brought in supplementary material, they really opened up a new world for me, in terms of science (I'd never been very interested in science, though I was studying it)... they were truly committed to their work. Not all of them were excellent, but the majority were. And the ones who were not as outstanding were still highly competent and did their jobs well, though they were not as enthusiastic as the others.

Anonymous said...

I know this was a very old post, but after reading everything I'm getting quite concerned for my own future haha.
I'm a student in Malaysia, going through my final year before hopefully getting a ASEAN Scholarship to study in one of the JCs. I was just wondering, do we have to take any of the admissions test such as PACT, AEIS or any others? Or do we just apply for the ASEAN Scholarship and do the tests that are needed there?
Thank you, your help would be much appretiated.

Anonymous said...

Just got the scholarship for 2011 to study in secondary1 (grade 9). Can someone please let me know if I would definitly be given a JC nearest to my hostel or it could be any of the JCs anywhere in the island? It would be helping big way.

jan said...

Hey, I was just awarded the ASEAN Pre-U Scholarship and I need help deciding whether to accept it. I've noticed that the posts on this page are old so I was wondering if anyone could fill me in on some updated information.
-Is it a real problem if I am sent to a junior college that is not one of the top colleges?
-Is it worth it to risk going and competing there as opposed to staying in Malaysia where I'm doing fine?
-Is the certificate I get after completing my A-Levels there acceptable in other countries like Malaysia, UK, USA, Australia and so on?