THE STPM or Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia strikes fear in the hearts of many SPM school leavers as it is perceived as a very difficult exam.
Yet, if one considers the fact that they have spent eleven years in the public school system, they really should not be afraid of the STPM. However, the fact remains that many opt not to take the STPM. In most countries, students are required to study for a Pre-U (or preparation for university) course before they can enter the university. The Pre-U is a one-year course in Australia e.g. South Australian Matriculation (SAM), Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE) or Higher School Certificate (HSC). It is also a one year course in Canada (Canadian Year 13).
On the other hand, it is two years in United Kingdom (A-levels), Singapore (A-levels) and India (Plus2). Since we follow the British system of education in Malaysia, our pre-U course (STPM) is also two years.
The STPM is offered throughout Malaysia in the public schools and selected private schools. Students also have the option to take the examination privately on their own.
The STPM is conducted in Bahasa Malaysia. If students want to study abroad, they can use the STPM to indicate they have sat for the pre-U in Malaysia. However, they need to pass the English Language proficiency tests.
For study in USA and Canada, they may be required to sit for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). For UK, Australia and New Zealand, they may be required to sit for the IELTS.
Since the lectures are going to be in English, they need to prove that they can understand and follow the lessons.
Students who intend to enter Malaysian public universities for degree programmes are also required to sit for the STPM.
Over the last two years, there have been many changes in the entry requirements for degree programmes in local public universities. The STPM has been made one of the main pre-entry qualifications.
Parallel to the STPM route, a matriculation exam is also conducted in selected institutions. This is also a two-year programme similar to the STPM. Students can enter the matriculation programme after their SPM and upon completion, enter local public universities.
Although it was confined to bumiputra students at one time, non-bumiputra students are now also offered places to study matriculation programmes.
Entry to Lower Six classes is not automatic but based on students' SPM results. Often the choice of stream is also determined. However, if students wish to change stream they need to write to the Education Department through their respective schools.
Students with borderline results who are not offered places but wish to study STPM can always appeal through the schools. If places are available, the authorities may offer such places to those on the wait list.
Students who are not offered places in government schools may sit for the STPM in private schools. However, the number of schools offering STPM classes are limited and students may be required to pay tuition fees.
Whether one takes the STPM privately or through government schools, the certificate is the same. There are also students who sit for STPM on their own through self-study.
After completing the STPM, students have the opportunity to apply to local public universities, local private universities, local colleges for degree programmes or professional courses or study abroad. It is an academic qualification and it prepares one to pursue tertiary education.
The biggest advantage of studying in local public universities is the affordability compared to private institutions of higher learning. It is also possible to obtain a study loan. However, you must be prepared for competition. To enter local universities is competitive and to enter a course of your choice can be very competitive. The situation is the same in many countries around the world; Malaysia is no different.
After STPM, students who do not get into local universities or the course of their choice can study in local private colleges or universities. They do not have to take any Foundation Programme or other Pre-U courses because their STPM will be accepted as entry qualification for degree programmes.
Students who are still in dilemma whether or not to take STPM need to take into consideration their future career. Not all careers demand a degree. Even within careers there are different levels of entry.
For instance, in a hospital there are doctors, nurses and nursing aides.To be a doctor you need a degree, whereas to be a nurse a three-year diploma will do and to be a nursing aide, a one or two year on-the-job training will suffice.
Similarly, if you wish to lecture on Hotel Management a degree will be very useful. To work as a chef you only need formal training and to work in F & B as a supervisor or manager you may need a diploma.
Once you have decided on your career, decide how much time, money and energy you are going to invest. The shorter period you are going to invest, the shorter your returns are going to be. You can always study as you work and still improve in your career.
Remember: Learning never ends.
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