Life as a STPM (Arts) Student

STPM

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What subjects did you take and what were the possible subject combinations out there? Both in your school and any other schools that you might know of.

We are only allowed take up a maximum of 5 subjects and usually a minimum of 4 subjects. I’m not too sure about the possible subject combinations but I know it depends on the school you are enrolled in. My school, Victoria Institution only offered 5 subjects in the art stream; Pengajian Am, Pengajian Perniagaan, Ekonomi, Sejarah and Bahasa Melayu. Pengajian Am is compulsory for everyone including science stream student and in my school Pengajian Perniagaan in compulsory for art stream students.

What compelled you to take up STPM? How does one apply to study STPM at a school? Can you say anything about the common myths about STPM, in terms of difficulty, culture as well as any other that you can think of?

What compelled me to take up STPM? Hmm. Before this I have actually considered many other options such as foundations in arts and diploma in illustration and STPM was somewhat a last choice but my choice bounced back and forth. Back in high school, I am not a studious kid. I did not like what I was studying, I did not understand why do we need to take 9 subjects at once with one really unnecessary subject *I’m sure you can guess it*, and many more reasons. I scored just alright for SPM and it wasn’t worth for any scholarship but I was happy with what I got (: I was not exactly encouraged to take up STPM because there is a myth that you need to be super smart or a genius to take STPM but still I felt STPM was something that I was called for. So I went for it and ta-da I did amazingly well. I am not sure about science stream because I am from art stream, STPM is something anyone can score if you’re diligent and curious enough to study and be active in class. I loved what I studied except for one subject but it helped me tremendously in university. People have this mindset that STPM students only know how to study and that certainly isn’t true. We do know how to have fun and it is all about balancing out your life.

You do not have to apply for STPM if you are from a government school because you will automatically get a place at a school that offers Form 6 and is affiliated with your school.

Tell us more about the subjects that you took up, in terms of academic rigour, choice of content as well as examination style. What sort of revision and learning techniques have you adopted, and how that might have differed from form 4-5? What advice should new form 6 students heed from you?

I took 4 subjects; Pengajian Am, Pengajian Perniagaan, Ekonomi and Sejarah. I would say that all subjects are equally challenging and Ekonomi was the most challenging out of all. If you’re wondering, yes, all my subjects are conducted in Bahasa Melayu. These 4 subjects require insanely a lot of writing. We are also required to complete one assessment for each subject. It is known as PBS.

My batch was the second batch to go through the new system which is semester based system. Previously it was fully exam based. There are 3 semesters in total which means there are 2 semesters in a year. For all of my subjects, we are required to complete one assessment (paperwork) for each subject. It is known as PBS but some of my teachers call them ‘mini thesis’. I enjoyed doing them but the process was quite tiring because we are required to do different types of research methods for each PBS. I’m glad they introduced PBS because I can see how it helped me in university. We are taught how to cite using different citation styles and analyze data.

In Pengajian Am, we study about our country on how Malaysia functions (Semester 1), the policies and the constitution in Malaysia (Semester 2) and globally about what is going on around the world (Semester 3). We were also required to learn how to plot graphs from a set of question given. I find studying what we have learnt was not too bad but the essay part was quite frightening. I felt as though we were suddenly taught to think really hard whereas before that we were spoonfed like babies in high school. Reading is incredibly important to produce a good essay because examples were needed and level of maturity displayed in the essay is also crucial.

Pengajian Perniagaan (PP for short) is a subject I swore I will never retake. (Yes, we are allowed to retake any of our registered subjects after semester 3 no matter what grade you have) Why? Because PP is a full memorizing subject. No joke. We need to memorize the whole textbook. I struggled because I have a memory of a goldfish. The struggle does not stop there, we cannot blindly memorize it. We need to fully understand what we are memorizing because there will be a section in the exam paper where we are need to apply what we have studied. The questions are tough.

Ekonomi can sometimes be very interesting and sometimes, I will doze off studying it. We learn about Mikroekonomi, Makroekonomi and Ekonomi Malaysia. There are many graphs to analyse, formulas to use and applications of what we have learnt for essays. For me, I needed many exercises to improve because I am terrible with numbers, especially for the calculation part. I bought exercise books and did all of the past year questions. As for the essay, we really have to grasp the concept in order to do it.

Sejarah! My favourite among all. We study about Sejarah Dunia, Sejarah Islam and Sejarah Asia Tenggara dan Malaysia. Well, I would say, if you love history, you’ll love this but I wrote like mad woman during exam. I do not exactly remember which semester, we need to write 4 essays out of 6 choices and each essay needs to be at least 3 pages. This means 12 pages in 2 hours. There are 2 types of questions. The first is straightforward questions where we can basically write down what we read without much thinking and the other type is the opposite. We need to think thoroughly about the question.

Most of the time I do my own notes because I revise better through mind maps. For some subjects I have more than one reference book because different books have different examples and contents such as Ekonomi and Sejarah. Well, of course, do not  rely on only the reference book; read other books and magazines, watch videos, listen to podcasts and have an open mind. If you still do not know what technique you should use to study, google it. Not kidding! I tried many ways and mind mapping worked the best.

I also suggest to have at least one or two friends to study with and if you cannot study at home, go and explore different places to study such as the library and coffee shops. I study better outside as compared to at home. Not forgetting, listen to your teachers when they teach, it saves a lot of extra reading and understanding when you study. If you think your teacher isn’t good enough, find teachers outside (: I have also learnt that, no one can be fully ready for an exam. So, just do your best, do not stress yourself up and ace it.

Can you tell us more about the culture in an STPM school? How might it have been different or similar to Form 5? How integrated are Form 6 students into the Form 1-5 student body? Where do STPM graduates normally end up in? What of it that you enjoyed and what was lacking or lacklustre to you?

During my time, we still wear uniforms and I love my school uniform but now Form 6 students are not required to wear uniforms. The culture is quite similar to high school but we are given more freedom to chose a certain things such as forming our own clubs and the teachers are a tad different compared to high school teachers. In my school, Form 6 students have their own block so we do not mix with Form 1 to Form 5 students unless we join a body or society that includes Form 1 to Form 5 students. The culture in my school got me into culture shock the first day and I hated it but I end up loving my school and I can say I am proud to study Form 6 in Victoria Institution. In VI, there are insanely too many activities that we need to join but when I look back now, those memories are very precious.

I think there’s a lack of good teaching staff in Form 6 and the marking system/ answering techniques of some subjects are too rigid.

Usually STPM students will go to public universities (IPTA) and some will continue their journey in private universities or go overseas. It really depends on the individual. I personally went to a public uni because my course, Social Science majoring in Anthropology and Sociology is not offered in any private university. STPM is a also great platform for people who are unsure about what they want to study and it costs almost nothing compared to other options out there.

Most importantly, reflecting on your time studying STPM in school, how do you feel?

I truly miss Victoria Institution and my Form 6 life. I had a lot of fun with my friends and still keep in touch with them until today. Agreeing to go for STPM really changed how I look at myself and how God creates wonders in life.

 


Penny Wong

Penny Wong a proud KL citizen decided to leave home to explore a new city in Malaysia and hope to integrate arts and anthropology some day in her own way. Sipping green tea/latte, painting, reading and being creative are her favourite solitude moments. She is currently studying in Universiti Sains Malaysia and is a JPA scholarship holder.

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Life@TCSJ-Cambridge A-Level

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College – the time I discarded my school uniform to immerse myself in enriching education, wearing an attire of my choice, that secreted the maximum amount of my brain juice. The time I evolved into an adult and took full responsibility of my educational life. The time I hiked up my pants to my chest, put my shoulder to the wheel and started taking control of my life to walk the path of success. And so began my journal of ‘Things I never did – but would probably have helped me if I did’. I say the word ‘probably’ because although I did not carry out the above, at least not to my fullest potential, I would say that I’m quite satisfied with where I ended up – UCL – not the best but a world of good fun. But my university life is another story, the objective of this article is to share my college experience with you all, with the hope to give budding college-goers an idea of what college can be, only if you’re willing to listen of course.

In retrospect, I began college with an absolutely horrendous attitude. Coming out of a private secondary school and being constantly ranked as one of the top students, I was insufferably stuck-up, incredibly obnoxious, ashamedly sheltered and with a nose held so high I was almost bending backwards. I stepped into college thinking it was going to be a breeze. I mean, sure, the lecturers warned that the difficulty jump from SPM to A-level would be a culture shock but teachers said the exact same thing about the transition from PMR to SPM, didn’t they? Now, just to clarify, by no means am I belittling the Malaysian secondary education system. Instead, I’m putting my honest perception of the difference in difficulty gap and technical knowledge required to succeed in secondary school as compared to A-level. Sure, swallowing textbooks whole and regurgitating them during examinations might help one achieve good grades in A-levels but then again, it might not. Thorough understanding of the course and subjects do, no two ways about it. I do not mean to scare anyone off, I am merely emphasising and underlining the necessity of constant self-study to obtain commendable grades in A-level (at least for me, but of course I do not intend to commit a fallacy and generalise the bright minds that make up the Malaysian student population).

However, I digress, the real point of this article, as mentioned above, is to draw attention to what made my college experience so fulfilling. Besides being fussy and picking only subjects I enjoyed (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Economics) I also immersed myself in extra-curricular activities. No longer was I confined to the typical secondary school societies which were mostly limited to sports and chess. At college, they encourage you to pursue your passion and develop your interests, whatever they may be. Needless to say, I went wild. I signed up for at least 8 different societies, with the intention to excel in every one of them. As naïve as I was idealistic, I soon found out I might as well drop out of college if I were to take all of them on. After much deliberation and consideration of opportunity costs and where my interests really were, I opted to be active in two societies. These two societies were the Animal Huggers Society and Taylor’s Badminton Club. Now, I can hear your sniggers and snickering starting. Badminton was fine but Animal Huggers? Was that a joke? During my tenure, it happened to be the biggest non-sports society in my college. Impressed yet? Well you should be! I always enjoyed telling my peers that I was the Vice President of the society because their disbelief made the work we did that much nobler.

I conducted regular visits to the PAWS Animal Shelter in Subang with my team of committee members and a limited number of volunteers to tend and care for the homeless dogs, cats and rabbits that were constantly brought to the shelter. By ‘tending’, we walked, fed and bathed the animals as well as cleaned their living areas. Now, this experience was so eye-opening because I couldn’t visualize the living standards of the animals before this. Even before entering, I was hit with a stench that made my eyes water. The animals were covered with faeces, cramped together and had skeleton bodies. It was indescribable to see their eyes light up when we arrived, each one of them begging for attention and tenderness. I was hit by a hurricane of emotions as I took all of this in. From the most vicious hound to the puppy cowering in the corner, each animal there had a story. Either dropped off by owners who couldn’t care for them anymore, rescued from abusers thus making them more violent and untrusting towards humans or dumped at the side of the road, the stories were all heartbreaking. Honestly, I was so grateful to have been able to visit the shelter as I was able to get a true glimpse of reality, which ignited a desire to work towards a better world, something I am adamant on achieving.

Onto happier matters, I was the Assistant Organising Chairperson for the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities’ (MAPCU) inaugural badminton tournament. Although this competition was a longtime tradition for this umbrella body of private colleges and universities, I say ‘inaugural’ because it was the first time my college ever took on the challenge of holding this prestigious event. Now, the only events I’ve ever organised were those secondary school occasions where minimal effort was required from students and teachers were the main powerhouses driving and shaping the event. With that said, the MAPCU badminton tournament was heavily student-led by the committee team and was a world of difference as compared to high school. I won’t bore you with the specifics nor the details but what I will do is present to you two major learning outcomes which contributed to my steep learning curve through college. First of all, managing the expectations of different stakeholders and ensuring to never over-promise any single party was a new experience. We were fully accountable for our interactions with the different participating educational institutions and no teachers were standing behind us to mop up our mess if we made one. Next, I became increasingly thick-skinned (for better or for worse). I had to source for sponsors and it was only natural to get shot down by most of the companies you approach. Initially, I was embarrassed, hurt and ashamed every time I was rejected but as time went on, I matured, understood that it was not in the company’s interest to sponsor such an event, and carried on. As cliché as it might sound, this experience truly helped me cope with rejections in different endeavors I undertook following this event. Truly, there were a myriad of other skills I obtained such as how to be a better team player, time management, people management, the list just goes on, but if I had two main takeaways from my role it would be as stated previously.

College life paints a different picture in everyone’s mind. Following my high school education, I was looking forward to a more challenging but also more flexible lifestyle. Now that I’m in university, I see it as a stepping stone to cultivate new skills that, moving forward, will define your university opportunities and experience. Although I had a ball in college, if I could turn back time, I would have done so much more. I would have participated in external events, took advantage of college networks and spearheaded new initiatives for the societies I was a part off. I’m not here to dictate your college experience but to simply give you an insight of what you can expect during your college education and how to make the most out of it. Talk to people, learn from them but always remember to take everything you hear with a pinch of salt. I hope that this article managed to give you a bit of an idea as to what college life is all about. All the best!


Mah Jun Kit

Mah Jun Kit is reading Chemical Engineering at University College London, Class of 2018, and is passionate about animal welfare, environmental health and, of course, good food. He enjoys the thrill of outdoor activities and relishes engaging in intellectual discourse. He is loves meeting new people so if you see him on the streets, don’t be a stranger

Life@TCSJ-SAM

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South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or presently known as SACE International is an Australian-based pre university program that heavily involves the combination of coursework and final examination, which ultimately leads you to earning an Australian Year 12 qualification. As for myself, I did SAM back in 2013, in which I joined during the July intake at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya (TCSJ) and graduated at the end of 2014. Being somewhat clueless on the things to be done and the course to pursue after getting my SPM results, I definitely had to take my own initiatives to get more insights on all the choices available, which led to countless ‘new tabs’ on my web browser and various perspectives obtained from those who were undertaking different pre-university programs. In the end, the Australian matriculation or specifically, the SAM program won me over, primarily due to the weightage of its internal assessments; SAM students are assessed based on 70% college-based assessment (coursework) and only 30% final examination, which I believe is a huge advantage for myself. For most colleges that do offer the SAM program, the entry requirements generally demand students to get a minimum of 5 credits (subject pre-requisites do apply).

After deciding the program that I was most interested in while still keeping my options open for the rest, the next step was to look out for any forms of financial aid that could help me reach my desired higher education. I was very lucky to be in the position where my results gave me the eligibility to apply to various scholarships that were provided both by the government and NGOs. Most of these sponsors require applicants to achieve straight As for their SPM examination but there are definitely other options to consider such as government loans, university scholarships and bursaries depending on your results. The application process for me involves a great deal of anxiety with tons of patience and persistence; receiving declines after declines can definitely took a toll on you but with great perseverance, I received a full scholarship offer from MARA to pursue my studies to my preferred university in Australia, where I would first have to undertake SAM program in TCSJ and pass the ATAR requirement fixed by the sponsor, which was a minimum score of 85 at that time. Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. During my MARA application, students were given a choice to pick two from the numerous options available, varying to the courses and countries that it is offered in. The Australian program offered was without a doubt my very first option and I was very fortunate to be one of the few selected for the program. For MARA scholars, students were selected based on their performances during the psychometric test and the interview conducted.

In SAM, it is expected for one to be relentlessly on the go and working consistently on the assignments at hand. There is going to be a time where you might be having multiple tests for different units on the same day of your assignment’s submission, which can be pretty challenging to get used to. It took me a while to get adjusted to the fast-paced study routine and I was very lucky to have a steadfast support system around me with thoughtful peers and selfless lecturers that always kept me on my toes. Personally, I believe that good time management, continuous effort and perseverance are the three prominent traits that needs to be grasped in order for one to excel in SAM. It is important to realize that everything requires effort and perseverance, that executing actions is equally as important as believing and dreaming big. Always get a head start on the work assigned by doing prior research and discuss it with your lecturers to get constructive feedback; it will help you to improve your work further and thus enhancing the final piece. Don’t be embarrassed or anxious to consult the lecturers for any difficulties faced throughout the course, they are more than willing to guide you and improving your overall experience in SAM. Discussion among peers can be very helpful in completing your assignment, as you’ll realize that more in depth knowledge on the subject matter can be attained with all the different ideas shared. Being consistent with your internal assessments grades throughout the program can definitely help you to improve your final results, as it holds a considerably higher weightage than the external component and it also allows you to have more control on your intended outcome.

SAM arranges various motivational talks from university representatives and experienced alumni around the world, where they share valuable insights that can help you further in deciding the right course to pursue. Being rather new on the procedures in applying to different universities in Australia, Taylor’s University Placement Services were my literal backbone throughout my university application process. They were always very supportive and willing to dedicate their time to help the students in getting the intended university. Their years of experiences definitely gives an advantage to the students; they have recognized what these universities are looking for in potential students and they always made sure all the forms were filled with relevant details before any submission, leading to an excellent service in entirety.

SAM also offers various opportunities for students to discover their hidden passions and interests apart from education with a variety of clubs and societies to choose from, ranging from sports, arts and affiliations. Through SAM, I have found one of the most moving forms of excitement I could ever accomplish, which is the opportunity to inspire another person and thus making a difference in their life, no matter how small it could be. One of my most valuable SAM experiences was the chance to get involved with the MADU (Made a Difference United) society, which is a special community-based program held only under SAM in TCSJ. In MADU, we had different groups of students doing weekly visits to shelter homes around Subang and Petaling Jaya areas, where we provide mentoring sessions for the students there through our ‘Buddy System’. Basic tutoring as well as engaging and developing long-term relationship with the students to discuss their future endeavors 
were our primary roles as mentors. Our objectives are to inspire and reinvigorate the significance of school education for these students and emphasizing the importance of skill integration in real life. From MADU, I realised that when you have the chance to inspire someone, that person may then inspire others and as this chain reaction grows, an entire generation could be inspired and lives would definitely be changed.

Throughout my one and a half years in Taylor’s, Both SAM and MADU have played a huge role in shaping the person that I am today. It has taught me the need of inculcating wisdom in education to develop a more confident, successful generation. It has equipped me with the much-needed soft skills and life skills that are stressed upon throughout the course particularly with all the assignments and tasks given. I’ve also learned how to manage a team efficiently, adapt quickly to any sudden and unexpected changes and socialize well with people from different background. Another life lesson that I’ve gotten and persistently remind my mentees and myself with is that we are our own limits; nothing could stop us from achieving our goals other than ourselves. It is essential for us to believe in ourselves when nobody else would and our beliefs will then determine our actions and that actions will evidently determine our results. If we have the passion and desire to reach for our own ambition, with hard work, constant dedication and much needed self-confidence, that could be achieved effortlessly.


Razana Aqila

Razana is going into her second year of university, where she is undertaking an engineering degree in Monash University, Australia under Majilis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Scholarship. She is a music enthusiast with a profound passion for photography and suffers severe ornithophobia.