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Monday April 23, 2012

Take the American route

HAVING spent 11 years in a curriculum modelled after the British education system, one would indeed frown upon the idea of seeking a tertiary education in the United States.

These two systems are fundamentally different ... British education emphasising a more exam-oriented approach while American education promotes more liberal and independent learning styles.

However, amongst Malaysian students today, more often then not, they are blindly convinced by parents, peers, and even some colleges that British education is the only way to go, instead of doing some soul-searching to find out the type of learners they truly are and which system would best fit their academic needs.

As a student who has experienced both the British and American systems (A Levels & American Degree Programme), I believe it is time someone does justice to what an American learning system can truly offer.

If you’re fresh out of secondary school and still unsure about what academic route to take, do take a moment to consider why you should fly to the land of opportunity to advance your academic goals.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of American education is that it’s a system built upon helping students realise their truest and deepest passions.

Most students do not have the slightest clue about what they want to do in their future by the time they complete SPM or STPM.

Either that or they simply conform to ambitions and aspirations pushed down by parents or peers.

As opposed to the British system, which ‘forces’ you to commit to one academic domain before starting your degree, the beauty of the American system lies in the fact that you can be the most undecided person in the world, and still secure a place in a college.

Most American colleges, including the Ivies like Harvard or Columbia, allow students to enroll as ‘Undecided’ in their majors. You only have to formally decide on a major in the third or fourth year of study.

This means you have about two years or more to take as varied subjects as you like, before realising which route you want to commit to.

It certainly beats having to go through a pre-university programme that restricts the career options you may be exposed to.

The American system wants their students to be all rounders and therefore they emphasise every aspect and not just on academic learning like the British system.

For example, back in my A- Level days I took only four subjects which comprised Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Thinking Skills for one and a half years and was not encouraged to take up other communication subjects or other wise as they were considered a waste of time and energy if it was not related to your major.

However, when I was in the American Degree Programme taking subjects unrelated to my major was encouraged as it created a holistic personality.

Through that I discovered my true passion for mass communications. While the British system is a great education system, it did not allow me to truly understand my passion and abilities.

Under the British system, I was spoon-fed with information.

Students became dependent on their teachers for information, and rarely tried to solve problems on their own.

Besides that, an exam oriented system also made students memorise materials rather than understand the topic.

All we ever cared about in high school was to memorise as much as possible to score well in the exams.

As for the American education system, it is entirely different.

Students are required to complete assignments on their own, carry out research to gather information for themselves, and work in groups to promote teamwork.

This indirectly creates a need to be independent.

Getting your degree under the American system may not sound as glamourous as a degree from a British system due to the mindset that we have, but take some time and ponder about the flexibility of the course, it’s holistic nature and how you will be made independent.

The world today is very much different and when you join the work force, you will need more than just a degree.

You will need to work for something that you are passionate about, be an all-rounder and are able to solve your own problems and an American education programme can create such qualities in a person.

So therefore, do consider studying in America and discover a part of you that you never knew existed.




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