The Tempinis diaries

March 16, 2008

The Problem of Top Students in Malaysia and Low Expectations

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , , , , — toru @ 6:42 am

 I always enjoy reading stories like the one below about bright young people doing well in exams.  What I don’t enjoy is the inevitable follow up story about the same bright young people being denied a place in the local varsities or a scholarship by the government due to the unfair NEP.  It breaks my heart but I am sure this year will be no different.

One thing that concerns me is the problem of low expectations among top students in Malaysia.  Often, students with excellent SPM or STPM results will be content with pursuing an engineering degree with UPM or Universiti Tenaga Malaysia or some unknown institution in Malaysia.  This leaves me extremely puzzled.  Why shortchange yourself?  For SPM students, I think some students want a short cut and an assured place in a university.  This to me is myopic and short-sighted.  True you are assured a place in the university but look at it this way:  you are stuck with a lousy degree for the rest of your life.  I have often said that a good degree doesn’t mean you will do well in life but a lousy degree may keep many doors shut at the beginning of your career.  Many international firms simply will not hire you if you come from an unknown institution.  So my advice to SPM students, do your A-Levels or STPM and don’t try to get into a third-rate university.  It is simply not worth it.  A case of the old adage: penny wise, pound foolish.  If your results are good, try the ASEAN scholarship.  In the meantime, try to improve your written and spoken English.

For top STPM students, please do apply to Singapore universities if you can afford it.  Why sell yourself short?  Singapore universities are head and shoulders above Malaysian universities.  Although I believe that any methodology on university rankings may be disputed, the difference in positions between Malaysian and Singapore universities are too stark to be ignored.  Also, if you are considering doing a twinning programme with a third rate overseas institution, do consider applying to Singapore universities.  You will have to fight very hard to get anywhere if you come from let’s say University of Central England.  Again, why sell yourself short just because you want an overseas experience?  You can get an overseas experience by going on exchange with a partner institution while you are studying in Singapore.

And to Nimisha who was mentioned in the article below:  apply to NUS.  Lin Hui – please apply to NUS, NTU or SMU.  I hope you get a scholarship to achieve your dreams.  But if not, I hope not to read about your sob story on how you are denied a university place or scholarship in the months to come.


18 who did it their way

KONG WAN YEE, the youngest of three girls, was brought up single-handedly by her mother, Yam Kee Tin. Her father had died when she was just seven months old.

On Tuesday, Wan Yee did mum proud by scoring 5As in her Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examination.

Wan Yee (left) getting a congratulatory hug from her proud mum.

In addition to that, the former SMK Katholik, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, student emerged as one of the 18 top STPM scorers in the country.

At the results announcement ceremony held on Tuesday by the Malaysian Examinations Council in Kuala Lumpur, Wan Yee said: “I didn’t expect it. After some of my papers, I felt sad because I had made some careless mistakes.”

Wan Yee, who took General Paper, Mathematics T, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, had her own method of studying for each subject.

“For example, in Biology, I’d read a chapter once and then restructure the whole chapter to make it easier to study the next time around.

“For Maths and Physics, it was all about practice. Concepts are also very important in physics.”


Although she initially took tuition for all her subjects, she stopped all that as the STPM approached as she felt she did not have enough time for self-study.

“I like to study on my own as I can concentrate better,” said the aspiring neurologist.

Madam Yam added that she was fortunate as Wan Yee and her sisters took the initiative to study on their own.

“I didn’t have to tell them to study as I was also working at that time,” said the retired accounts supervisor.

The 18 top scorers posing for a photo after receiving their plaques, certificates of appreciation and RM1,000 cash awards during the ceremony.

Arts stream top scorer Kerk Sin Yee from SMK Tinggi Malacca (B) was inspired by one of her seniors, who was among the top STPM scorers last year.

“He became my role model when I was in Lower Six, and inspired me to try and do as well as he did,” she said.

The former editor of her school magazine plans to apply to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“I’m not sure what course I’m going to apply for. I’m interested in a lot of things!” Sin Yee said, adding that she was considering Mass Communications and Psychology, among other subjects.

One thing she and fellow top scorers J.G. Nimisha from SMK (P) Sultan Ibrahim, Johor Baru, and Chang Lin Hui (SMJK Yoke Kuan, Sekinchan) agreed on was that each person had their own method of studying.

“I think the most important thing is to find the most suitable way to study,” said Lin Hui, who intends to study Physics in university,

Added Sin Yee: “Don’t study at the last minute – you’ll regret it!”

Checking out their results are (from left) Khairul, Lin Hui and Nimisha.

Nimisha emphasised the importance of time management.

The former head prefect and sports house captain said: “Some of us also have other commitments in school as we hold posts in various societies.

“You have to know how to manage your time and get your priorities right.”

Nimisha, who is enjoying her current break from studies, hopes to take up law.

“I’ll prefer to study locally because I’ll be able to get to know the country’s legal system better,” she added.

Lin Hui said she would be applying to both local and foreign universities to widen her options.

“I’d rather go overseas if I can get a scholarship. My family can’t afford to send me otherwise,” she said.

With or without tuition

Former SMK (L) Methodist, Kuala Lumpur, student Lai Choon Keat, who hopes to be an engineer, has never taken any tuition.

His recipe for success? Always listen to the teachers in class and study hard.

Ooi Shu Tat from SMJK Keat Hwa in Alor Star, who hopes to be either an engineer or scientist, said he was pleased he had done well in Biology.

“As I was taking Physics, I couldn’t attend Biology classes, so I took tuition for the subject,” he said, adding that he liked playing chess and scrabble in his free time.

Meanwhile, SMK Bintulu sixth former Mark Wong scored a Band Six in the Malaysian University English Test (MUET).

MUET, which tests listening, speaking, reading and writing, classifies candidates according to six bands or levels of achievement, from Very Good User (Band Six) to Extremely Limited User (Band One).

“I read lots of books to make sure I do well in the MUET,” he said, adding that he played the piano and violin.

Mark, who will be taking the STPM this year, hopes to combine his love for science and music when he goes to university.

The top scorer for last year’s mid-year MUET was Arvinder Singh from SMK Maxwell, KL.

The other overall top STPM science students are Tan Pei Sun (SMK St John, KL) and Pu Chan Yeu (SMK Katholik, PJ).

In the arts stream, the top scorers are Mon Chee Cheong (SMK Lelaki Methodist, KL), Asnarita Tarmizi (SMK Paya Besar, Kuantan) and Khairul Azhar Meerangani (SMKA Sheikh Hj Mohd Said, Seremban).

Top scorers in the rural category are Leong Kok Hou and Teoh Shing Fong from SMK Seri Kampar, Kampar. Top scorers in three other categories are: Noor Izati Meor Samsudin from SMK St John, KL (blind); Muhammad Marwan Mohd Tanos from Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Baru (visually impaired);and S. Saravanan from SMK Chio Min, Kulim (spastic).


  1. […] deadlines for applications to Singapore Universities are drawing close.  For STPM holders with good results, please put in an application.  You never know where UPU will send you e.g. some unknown […]

    Pingback by Application Deadlines of Singapore Universities for STPM students « The Tempinis diaries — March 21, 2008 @ 9:26 am

  2. Contact me if any malaysians are coming to Singapore whether under ASEAN or by own funding.
    Leave a comment at this space with contact number:

    I am at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technology University.
    The Business School in NTU is very interesting and rewarding,and the seniors are supportive.
    Drop by the Freshman Orientation For Malaysians.

    Some people can still learn without going to the best universities.
    Do not give up.A learner will learn wherever he is by utillising resources he can find.
    Some learn by looking at nature, some from friends, some from newspapers and magazines.
    Such are the possiblities if a learner can look beyond a degree for something more interesting.

    Comment by Mr F — April 7, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  3. […] to all who did well in STPM and SPM. You might want to check out my previous writings here, here, here and […]

    Pingback by STPM and SPM 2009 « The Tempinis diaries — March 15, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  4. Most exciting experience thus far in your life?

    Comment by Parks — April 4, 2010 @ 12:53 am

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