Life@Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar – A-level

KTJ Front

Image Source

 Naturally boarding school may sound like an unnerving idea to many. Vague notions of having to live away from home for the very first time and to become independent in such a short span of time certainly sound daunting. The reality of things at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) is far different.

Let’s look at some of the general aspects of KTJ as a school before focusing in on the aspects that would interest you as an A-Level Student. This article won’t focus much on the facilities and specifications of the school as you can glean all this information from the school’s website. What I will attempt to do is to provide you an insight from my point of view as a student in KTJ’s Sixth Form.

Students are assigned a boarding house, which is where they will stay for the entire duration of their course. There are 4 boys boarding houses and 3 girls boarding houses, along with one junior (Form 1-3) boarding house. Students in the Lower Sixth will often share a room with another person while most Upper Sixth students will get a single room. Most students love their boarding house and build strong bonds with others within the houses. It will also represent the sports house that you compete in throughout your time at KTJ.

Classes at KTJ start between 0800-0830 depending on the day and consist of eight 40 minute lessons. Students in the Sixth Form will have a number of periods depending on their subject choices as well as the intake that they join. Students in the January intake generally will have less free periods as the teaching has to be more compact due to the shorter duration of the course.

Meals are served in the dining hall daily. There is breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Both Asian and Western cuisines are served during the 3 main meals and a vegetarian option is always available. There is a daily panini station with alternating fillings such as chicken and lamb. On most days there will be a noodle station serving local favourites as well as a grill on alternate days. Sunday is an exception where brunch and dinner are served. A typical brunch will comprise of things like pasta, roti canai, salmon steak, lamb, croissants and many other options. If you still find yourself hungry, there is a ‘Tuck Shop’ open at night during social hour (2045-2115) where you will be able to purchase additional food. All the boarding houses also have a limited pantry where you will be able to make simple things like instant noodles and soups.

The following paragraphs will mainly be relevant towards students who will be in the Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth forms while they are undertaking their A-Level course.

  1. The Academic Life

A focus on academics forms an integral part of the KTJ Sixth Form Experience. A combination of CIE A-Levels and EDEXCEL A-Levels are available at KTJ. Students will typically take between 3-4 AS Levels with some choosing to continue on with only 3 subjects for the A2 Level Examinations and others sitting for all 4. A broad combination of subjects is available for example; Mathematics, Further Mathematics, History, English Literature, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Art, Music, Biology and Geography. The subjects are generally organised into ‘blocks’ giving students the ability to have numerous diverse combinations. If you’d like to know more about the combinations I’d recommend you visit the following link: http://www.ktj.edu.my/userfiles/ktj/Sixth%20Form%20Subject%20Choices.pdf The teachers are extremely dedicated at KTJ and go the extra mile in ensuring that students are able to excel in their chosen subject combinations. There is a dedicated Sixth Form computer room with printing facilities that oftentimes comes in handy when one is revising. The CIE Examinations are offered in both the Summer and Winter sessions whereas the EDEXCEL ones are only offered in Summer. During the weekdays and on Sundays there are two ‘prep’ sessions which you are supposed to use to study productively. These are extremely beneficial as they get you into the habit of not leaving everything to the last minute and ensuring that you do something productive daily. I have found that they greatly relieve the stress that is felt as the examinations approach as you have done most of the necessary revision weeks in advance. Science practicals are usually held weekly in preparations for the practical component of the Science A-Level examinations. There are dedicated laboratories for each subject that are fully equipped.

  1. The Social Life

The social life at KTJ is an interesting one mainly due to it being a boarding school. You are able to get to know your friends much better here since you spend the whole day with them hence forming the very tight-knit community. The vast number of clubs, sports and societies allow you to meet many people with similar interests and build lasting friendships. Sixth Form Students are allowed day outings over the weekend and will have to return to school before a stipulated time. It’s undoubtedly different from other schools as you won’t have the freedom to leave school whenever you wish but this has never been an issue for me. You will always find something to do as a result of all the activities that are planned, something that I will elaborate further in the next few posts. It really helps you in preparing for your future at a university as you learn to interact with people of all ages in the boarding houses and throughout the day. An induction program is also organised for all students entering the sixth form to introduce them to the school and introduce them to their course-mates.

  1. Extra-Curricular Activities

The opportunities to involve yourself in ECAs is immense at KTJ. From wall-climbing to public speaking and debating to golf, KTJ has it all! There are numerous clubs and sports that meet up daily during the fixed ECA slots from 3.50-4.50pm and 5.00pm – 6.00pm. It’s a great opportunity to pick up new skills or even take your skills to the next level. There are numerous fields that facilitate hockey, football, rugby and basketball. There are even opportunities for students to start their own clubs should if an activity they are passionate about is unavailable at KTJ, recent examples being volleyball and an Anime club. It’s definitely indispensable in achieving a holistic education. There are frequent inter-house competitions not only in the usual sporting events but the Arts as well. ‘House Singing’ and ‘House Drama’ are events that many students look forward to. If you’d like to know more, just visit KTJ’s YouTube page! Some of the main sporting events include the Cross-Country Run, Swimming Gala, Athletics events, Interhouse Rugby, Football and Hockey. There’s a never ending list of available opportunities to pursue at KTJ and if you do indeed come here, make sure you take full advantage of all the opportunities at KTJ. There are also excellent leadership opportunities in KTJ, be it the Sixth Form Committee, Prefects’ Board, Student Council, or the BOD of the societies and clubs. All of these roles will be very beneficial to you as an individual in honing the skills that you are required to equip yourself with in life. My personal favourite societies are the KTJ Debate Union (also the current CollegeLAH Director’s favourite) and Forensics Society!

  1. University Application Support

I can’t comment on the application support that students experience while applying to the US, Canada and Australia as I haven’t undergone the process myself. Focusing on the UK applications, KTJ has a dedicated Sixth Form Team that will assist and advise you throughout your time in the Sixth Form. Representatives from universities such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and University College London (UCL) have visited KTJ over the last year to provide information to prospective students. It’s a unique opportunity for you to be able to communicate with the universities that you are looking forward to applying to as it gives you the option to resolve all the doubts and questions that you have. There is a great level of support in helping you get to university not only from your teachers but your seniors as well. They have undergone the applications process and are in a great position to be able to advise you not only on university choices, but also with wider reading for your subject choice. There is often practice for university admissions tests such as the UKCAT and LNAT Examinations. Guidance is also provided to individuals who are required to submit additional forms as part of their university application. Besides that, mock interviews are organised for students who have been invited to an interview, usually for Oxbridge. Starting this year, the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is being offered for those taking their A-Levels.

KTJ is not like a school to me, it’s way more than that. It’s like a home away from home. The best way for you to gauge a school would be to come for a tour and see it first hand! I do hope that you consider applying to KTJ for your A-Levels and that you will enjoy it like I do. There will be an Open Day coming up on the 27th of February 2016 for those of you who’d like to see more of the school. Check out the KTJ Facebook Page for more details; https://www.facebook.com/kolejtuankujaafar/


Imran Debating

Imran Mateo joined the Sixth Form in KTJ in 2014. He hopes to pursue a degree in Law in the United Kingdom. You are most likely to find him at a Debate Competition.

Advertisements

Life as a STPM (Arts) Student

STPM

Image Source

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.