There are many different pre-university programs offered to Malaysian students each year. Most students are familiar with the Cambridge A-Levels program, South Australian Matriculation (SAM), and the International Canadian Pre-University (CPU). Students are allowed to complete these courses in Malaysia, after which the journey to study in a foreign university takes flight. For some, it is an exciting moment but for many, it is the fear of living in a different culture, facing a language barrier, and coping with a higher education standard. It is an instant transition into a world we Malaysian students never faced before and truthfully, some students do feel uncomfortable. And you may be surprise for some eventually give up on the journey.
During my time, few chose to further their studies in Canada. Most of my friends graduated from secondary school and enrolled in the A-Levels or SAM. Perhaps, Australia and the UK are closer to home (it is about 27 hours to travel to Canada - including transit hours). I, for instance, enrolled in the CPU program. The difference was I took this course in Canada itself. A month after SPM examinations, I hopped on to the plane and left ol’Malaysia for an international college in Hamilton, Ontario. Not many Malaysian parents realize that there is the option of studying the CPU in Canada itself. Moreover, this option exposes the student to the real prestigious standard of Canadian education. You may ask what the difference is for we still study the same syllabus and in English, be it in Canada or Malaysia. Why pay more to go overseas and study … it’s not worth it since I do it in Malaysia and gain the same entry into Canadian Universities!
Well, think again. Let me share with you some of the advantages of the CPU program in Canada:
a) It is equivalent to Canadian High School (Grade 12) standard
- Our Malaysian ways of just burying into books and memorizing answers to examinations won’t get you anywhere in the Canadian syllabus. Although the syllabus “should” be practiced the same way in Malaysia, it is in actual fact not even close to the high school, let alone the CPU standard in Canada. I know this from a friend who took the CPU program in Malaysia
- Very interactive learning in classrooms. Assignments are all about creative-thinking. Projects, presentation talks, team work …The environment encourages students to voice opinions, have discussion/healthy debates with other students and even the teachers themselves. Yes, no more stupid snaps by Malaysian teachers telling you that you are wrong when in fact you are correct. And when they get embarrassed they punish you for being rude … gosh …No such thing, here … teachers recognize and applaud students capabilities.
It is good to get exposure early and learn from our poor Malaysian studying habits. That way, during the transition into foreign universities students won’t be struggling to stay on par with the local students
b) More choices for entry-level into Canadian Universities
- If you graduate with a CPU diploma in Canada, you’re definitely qualified to apply to all Canadian Universities. Then again, some universities still require English proficiency examinations (e.g TOEFL). We cannot run away from this because we spent 12 years studying everything in Malay. But because you completed Grade 12/CPU here … you do have a slight advantage of gaining entry into Canadian-U over M’sian CPU students. The reason is that you will be evaluated at the same entry level as Canadian students, and not as an international student
- It is not obvious, but in reality it is true. You may think, “Does it even matter? Universities are out there to earn money too … especially from foreign students because we pay triple the fees!” or "It should be the same standard, in M'sian and Canada." However, students coming directly from another country often don’t get to compete on the same level for entry scholarships
- Moreover with this CPU completed in Canada, it is recognized worldwide! US/NZ/UK/AUS universities … you can apply to all! (Exceptions include entrance examinations like English proficiency tests)
c) Experience living independently
- It’s the little things in life that you will get to experience now. Therefore, in university, you won’t be too shocked and upset that you cannot even manage your own time and money. This is an important skill especially when you need to keep those grades up for your career choices. At least, you would have experienced it a few months beforehand, and so you won’t be bogged down by petty issues while studying in university
d) Meet people from different countries
- Yes, I know you can do this in university. But some students are still afraid of stepping outside of the "Malaysian" circle. "What's the big deal?" you may ask. I personally have seen young adults who get so comfortable with their existing friends, and everything Malaysian. If you ask me, my sudden trip to Canada right after SPM was the best thing that ever happened to me even though I was afraid, upset, homesick, miserable ... what I went through is what made me who I am today. My humble point is, sometimes getting the experience early isn't a bad idea.
- Many students don’t realize how important it is to have friendships with people from other countries. I think if you have a good attitude and the effort, you gain so much more by just being friends with other foreign students. For once, you will gauge how different our Malaysian views/culture/politics/lifestyle/economy. And that is where we mature, both at heart and mind. Moreover, this experience is an advantage over other students during the transition into university life.
Then again, it’s always your choice in the end, right? For me, I wanted to be more outspoken, learn to live independently, and improve my interpersonal skills. It wasn’t about getting A’s anymore. It wasn’t about being the top student with all those scholarships. Of course, it is great if a student can have all that. I can tell you this truthfully because SPM A1 is not even recognized in Canada. Yep, it’s not all that great unless you are aiming for M'sian government scholarships.
Having said that, I hope students will be more aware of the option for pre-university studies in Canada. I don’t sound like I’m pro-Canada, do I? Oops, that wasn’t my intention. I love home as it is, but it’s a smack-in-the-face reality that Malaysian education standards are not up to par. There are just some very valuable life lessons that you can rarely find in Malaysian schools/colleges/universities (yes, it is more valuable than those A’s).
There is a lady in K.L. who represents the international college that I went to. She manages registration, entrance exams, scholarships and such. Then again, there are other sources like the CEC Network that provides such information too. I will not disclose her contact info until I receive permission to release it. Anyway, stay tuned, folks. I will definitely provide more detailed information about the college, estimate cost of living/education, and some of my personal experiences in my next article.
Feel free to comment, give feedback or suggest topics of interests. Thanks!