The Tempinis diaries

October 28, 2007

Studying in Singapore

Filed under: studying in Singapore — Tags: — toru @ 6:44 am

This is a continuation of my previous blogpost on furthering one’s education in Singapore after SPM or STPM.  There are a lot of reasons why some students in Malaysia have a lot of hesitation in furthering their studies in Singapore.  In fact, I was quite apprehensive of coming to Singapore after my SPM as well.  After scoring quite well in SPM, I chose not to apply for the ASEAN Scholarship and did the STPM instead.  In retrospect, that was a big mistake.  Doing well in SPM is not a guarantee to doing well in STPM.  The standards between both exams are quite different and having good teachers mattered a lot.  In contrast, the teachers in Singapore’s Junior Colleges are , I am told, really good.  Anyway, here is a FAQ for those people who are considering on furthering their education in Singapore.  As usual, I would be happy to provide any assistance in the comments box below.


1.  I don’t want to study in Singapore because Singaporeans are kiasu.

This is the stereotypical perception of Singaporeans.  Yes – it is true there are a lot of Singaporeans who are kiasu and look down on Malaysians.  They would say things like, “Oh, are you fresh from Malaysia?”.  Statements like this make one feel like fish from the daily catch or refugees fresh off the boat.   But to say all Singaporeans are kiasu is unfair and a simplistic generalisation.  I have met many kind people here in Singapore.  In every country, there are nice people and annoying people.  The trick is not to let the annoying ones bring you down and to make friends with the nice people.  Anyway, after a few years, most Singaporeans cannot distinguish between Malaysians and Singaporeans. 

2. Singapore is a pressure cooker environment.

Again, this is somewhat true.  You are constantly surrounded by very bright and talented people in Singapore.  This might be a rude shock to Malaysian students at first.  We, who are used to being top of the heap in our little schools in Segamat or Petaling Jaya, will suddenly find ourselves relegated to the third or fourth class in school.  It’s like the big fish from the small pond who is now suddenly the small fish in the big pond.   For some students, this is a total shock that they can’t recover from. 

The way to deal with this is to have a sense of perspective.  The island’s talent is concentrated in a few schools.  On top of the pre-existing local talent, there are a lot of brilliant students from China and India as well.  So, don’t freak out if you are no longer the first boy or first girl in your class.  You are now out of your kampung and competing globally.  To do well you not only have to be better than your next door neighbour but that boy/girl from China or India.  But take heart too that you don’t have to be the very best.  The local universities are big enough to accommodate thousands of people.  And best of all they don’t have a quota system!  So if you take it all in perspective, you won’t feel so pressurised.

On reflection, I suspect the pressure cooker environment is worse in Malaysia.  In Malaysia to even stand a chance of getting into a good course, it’s 5 As or bust.  Of course, 5 As nowadays are also no guarantee.   I remember I was so stressed about getting good grades all the time during the two years of Form Six. 

3.  I want to study medicine/law/pharmacy and it is really difficult to get into these courses in Singapore. It is better to stay in Malaysia so that I can apply to both Malaysian and Singaporean universities.

I guess this is a valid reason.  It is pretty difficult to get into these courses in Singapore.  But certainly not impossible.  Many Malaysians have done it before.  Also, I believe that the medical, law and pharmacy faculties in Singapore are head and shoulders above their Malaysian counterparts.  And there is no guarantee that one would do well enough to get into the Malaysian universities for these courses.  Even 5 As students get sent to weird places and courses nowadays. 

 If you aim to do engineering/sciences, then definitely come to Singapore.   The engineering and science faculties in the local universities are huge and excellent.

4.  I want to stay in Malaysia to work.

You can always come back to Malaysia after university.  All the Singaporean government requires you to do (if you take the tuition fee grant) is to work in Singapore for three years for any (private or public) company.  It is the Singaporean government’s plan to retain talent in the country (sure beats the Malaysian’s governments policies of driving away non-Bumiputra talent).  Anyway, three years is a short time and you will get invaluable training in a country like Singapore.

5. Studying in Singapore is expensive

 See posting here.


  1. yes, not all singaporean kiasu..but I know lot of them who are kiasu and afraid to have child..stupid!

    Comment by maria — October 28, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  2. […] November 2, 2007 This is a continuation of my blog posts on studying in Singapore that can be found at the following links and […]

    Pingback by Twinning degrees vs. Singaporean Universities « The Tempinis diaries — November 2, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  3. Actually i have heard about the kiasu thing from most of my elders and the pressure is very heavy to study there. I am going to study there soon and i think that we dont have to compete with others so much as we will lose out direction and goal during the competition that is so tough. Our confidence also will be influenced and that means we have lost before the competition ends. So we just be outselves and do whatever we could but not inlfluencing our personality and our life goal

    Comment by calvin — February 10, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  4. Calvin, I think your attitude is very wise. Good luck in your studies!

    Comment by tempinis — February 11, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  5. Will studying in other foreign countries(eg:US,UK,Aus,Canada) cost more then in Singapore?Is it advisable to further our studies in overseas rather than study locally?

    Comment by Chiyee — June 22, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  6. Chiyee – I assume you are already at 16 years old. You should be able to use google to do a comparison. You can’t expect people to spoon feed you with knowledge all the time.

    Comment by toru — June 22, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  7. Hey, may I know how you did for STPM? and which uni in Singapore and wat course did u study at?or u’re still studying there now?:)thanks

    Comment by Christy — August 9, 2010 @ 8:15 am

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