“What’s next?”-SPM graduates

It is that time of the year again, where thousands of students, after a month of celebration regardless of whether they had earned it or not, now ask , “ok, now what?” Previously, parents would make all major decisions concerning their children, some parents, however, allow their children to make their own choices. Having completed the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination, most if not all of students are unsure of how to pursue their ambitions, or where to further their studies. Choices range from having to go for the government sponsored foundation programme, go through form six, or to study under a privately owned college. Each has their own pros and cons, and it is for our own benefit that we ensure the right choice has been made lest we end up wasting time.

Government sponsored foundation programmes, otherwise known as matriculation, used to be the go-to choice during the early days of independence. This is completely free and its a fast-track to a degree in a public university. Having completing matriculation, a place in a university is almost guaranteed and government issued monthly allowances for students to spend. It had all one would need to survive the harsh life of a tertiary student, especially with the recent rising cost of living. However, it is not without its risks, one is required to return the money that have been received once completing the course, or else get barred from leaving the country, exception to a select few of the underprivileged or high achievers. The cost going through a public university is relatively low compared to the loan one has to take to afford studying in a private college. There is also the possibility of being offered a course that is not in your interest, or one where there is little to no opportunity for employment within the country. Some say matriculation is only being accepted by a limited number of institutions overseas. Thus one must be able to stay competitive while taking matriculation.

Then there is form six, a pre-university government program offered in some schools as a substitute to A-levels offered in private colleges, and it is absolutely free. Students that partake in form six would have to face the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) test. This is recognised by most universities around the globe. Students are tested three times in three terms over the course of one and a half years. Should one not be satisfied by his or her results, they may retake in the following term, with the exception of the third and final term. However, the reason why STPM is recognised internationally is because it is world renowned for being very challenging, and having a high ratio of students failing per year, not being a very enthusiastic start for those wanting to take up the challenge. Furthermore, those wishing to continue their studies within the nation would need to take an additional test known as the Malaysian University English Test (MUET), while those that wish to do so overseas would have to go through the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or similar, both would add an additional strain to those taking STPM. Those who chose form six should always keep in mind that upon successfully completing their form six with having achieving a 4.00 GPA in their STPM, will be offered places in various universities, local or international, and would more than likely offer scholarships.

Another option would be to go through A-levels by enlisting in a private college. The typical course would take two years, while medical courses take up to four years, and every semester requires the student to give up an arm and a leg. Because of this, many students would be forced to take a loan, often from the Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN), in order to be able to bear the cost, and they are required to return the money with interest once they have completed their course, with the exception of high achievers who would find their debts cleared by the government. By getting a place in colleges with good reputations, and acing it of course, you also get yourself one-step closer to getting a job, why wouldn’t an employer hire someone from Harvard than in Taylors? Some colleges go on a spending spree for advertising and the remainder set aside for “occasional upgrades” to their facilities, which would result in a less than satisfactory learning experience. On the plus side, A-levels is recognised by all universities globally. The real challenge would be finding the right college and course. One only has one chance in getting into a right institute along with the preferred course, get it wrong here, the results would be very “expensive.”

With all things considered, it all depends on one’s academic ability, financial status, career choice, and personal preference. Whoever that has their whole future planed out should consider taking matriculation or A-levels if they can afford it. While those still sitting on the fence may opt for form six to get a taste of what they would face when they continue their studies in a university. Most importantly, anyone wishing to continue their studies must ensure that they are making the proper choice, or risk regretting their decision for the rest of their lives.

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