Most of my posts have been either about food or on my recent navel gazing depression. A few days ago I decided to write on something positive instead. So here goes. I remember the last time I felt seriously depressed was when I was going to school in Malaysia – it was a time when I was uncertain about my future and whether I would make it to university. Those were hellish days when I would work so hard not knowing whether I would (or could) make something of myself. It certainly didn’t help being a Type A over-achiever only to have one’s confidence being shattered by the STPM. Being a non-Bumiputra nothing less than 5 As would suffice to get into the course I wanted (even then it was not a guarantee). More than 16 years have passed since those dark days and things have worked out for me wonderfully. This post is meant to share my experience with anyone who is the same position. You are not alone. And things will work out for you or get better. Trust me.
If you are like me and your parents do not have the money to send you to a university overseas, please seriously consider studying in Singapore. While I know many Malaysians have negative impressions of Singapore, the fact of the matter is that the education system here is way more superior than what is found in Malaysia. There are a lot of things wrong with this small city state, but the bottom line is this - this is a city where you can make something out of yourself if you are a bright and hungry young man or woman. The qualifications that you get here will enable you to work in Singapore or branch out in this region. There are so many Malaysians in Singapore who have done very well for themselves.
If you have not taken your STPM or A-levels, do consider applying for the Asean scholarship. The Asean scholarship provides an excellent foundation for tertiary education. A common refrain that I often hear is how the STPM is the hardest exam in the world. In fact, I was guilty of repeating this when I was a student. On reflection, this sentiment is just complete rubbish. STPM is a very difficult exam because in Malaysia we did not have good teachers nor good lab equipment (my teachers were nice people but they were not very good teachers). No wonder STPM was so hard! The junior colleges in Singapore are really excellent. Two fine examples of the Asean scholarship alumni are Tony Pua and Kian Ming of http://educationmalaysia.blogspot.com/. I found a student writing about her recent experience here http://theinnersun.wordpress.com/2007/10/23/asean-scholarship-101/
If you are a student who has taken your STPM or A-levels and did pretty well, you can apply to the three universities in Singapore, NUS (www.nus.edu.sg ), NTU (www.ntu.edu.sg) or SMU (www.smu.edu.sg ). All three universities are head and shoulders over any university that you might find in Malaysia. Just go to any faculty in these universities and compare the qualifications and publication lists of the lecturers with the equivalent faculty members in a Malaysian university. You will see that the faculty members in Singapore all have PhD qualifications from top universities and a good publication record in international journals. There are also many opportunities offered in Singapore universities like exchange programmes which are simply not offered by universities in Malaysia. The Singapore universities are very well funded by the Singaporean government whereas the Malaysian ones are not. This makes a huge difference in terms of quality of faculty members, research and other facilities.
It breaks my heart every year to read about news of top students (usually Chinese and Indians) with brilliant grades being rejected by Malaysian universities. But what further puzzles me is why these students would eventually settle for courses like forestry in UPM or engineering in some unknown university in Trengganu. Why? Why? If you have pretty decent grades, try applying to the three universities in Singapore. You will have a much brighter future after graduation than studying in an unknown tertiary institution in Malaysia or pursuing some obscure course.
A final word on finances. Yes – studying in Singapore is expensive. But it is not prohibitively so. All students are entitled to borrow (interest free) 80 % of their tuition fees from local banks. The banks only start charging interest upon graduation. Also, many of the tertiary students make ends meet by giving private tuition. Surprisingly, a lot of students can actually support themselves financially (but of course you have to work very hard in balancing your school work and work).
I would be happy to provide any assistance in the comments box below to anyone who is thinking of studying in Singapore.