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By LIM GENE-HARN
Controversial debates about the quality of the matriculation programme remain rife in the media and Malaysian blogosphere over a decade after its conception. For me, the decision to pursue the programme became a crucial transition point in my life. The school environment became a significant factor for me as I weighed my options. I believe that investing time outside our family and comfort zone increases our chances to meet vastly different personalities and widens our worldview.
Being the son of a single parent, I knew that this path would greatly ease my mother’s financial burden as the government sponsors the matriculation programme. In addition, an allowance of RM1,250 is distributed to every student each semester, and this excludes the registration fees. At time of writing, ten per cent of the places are allocated to non-bumiputera students.
Do consult your counsellors regarding registration around the third quarter of your SPM year if you are interested in taking up the programme. The new intake is held around May each year, with the course duration being around 11 months.
The matriculation programme, which requires all students to stay on campus, offers cheap food and has zero transportation expenses. Three foundation streams are available: physical science, biological science, and accounting. Also, it is one of only three ways to enter local public universities – the others being STPM and diploma programmes in local universities – and local public university education can save you a bomb compared to private ones.
Diversity – I think that word encapsulates the student culture at my college. I have learnt to appreciate the environment here and the lessons it offers. Being a KL junkie, this place has opened my eyes to the different personalities of people who come from vastly different backgrounds.
Youths from different states, different faiths and religion, different races, different socioeconomic strata, different political views, different levels of education attainment, and different skills and talents all congregate here. Undoubtedly, there is cultural diversity in all local colleges, but I suspect that there is nothing quite like the melting pot that is a matriculation college.
If you were to compare the matriculation programme with other pre-university programmes, the former would be the best path if you intend to study in a local public university due to its short course duration, its ease compared to STPM, and the fact that it is fully subsidised. The only disadvantage is that it has yet to gain recognition from various foreign universities.
My two cents for post-SPM students is that stepping into college is all about equipping yourself for challenges, be they of the academic, environmental, social, or mental variety. Remember to abide by your principles and pause every now and then to contemplate where you stand. Life is not a race but a journey, and the terrain of life is filled with wonderful and astounding details.
Slow down and take in its richness because your pre-university course (or other post-SPM pathways) will be over sooner than you think. Choose the course that you think suits you best, and remember that what and where you study does not necessarily determine your future career.
Another thing to learn by heart during the matriculation programme is to be open-minded and assimilate into the social world around you. Life here is not all about getting a 4.0 cumulative grade point average (CGPA), but also about discovering different people and appreciating them for who they are!
You have to be colour blind to experience some of the interracial bonding which makes life in a matriculation college so interesting.
There is also an abundance of activities that will fill up your schedule every week! Maximising your contacts is also important to secure friends for your future projects in university and working life. If you are into sports, remember to participate in KAKOM (Inter Matriculation Colleges Carnival), which promises you tons of joy and benefits, including the opportunity to witness Malaysians from all walks of life coming together in the name of sports.
I believe that there are no assurances of the merits that each tertiary education pathway promises. As for me, Matriculation has been one of the most beautiful chapters in my life, and I have no regrets in pursuing this awesome path. Whichever path we may take, the rewards we reap greatly depend on our own readiness to face unexpected challenges and harness the opportunities that come our way.
Lim Gene-Harn a former SMK Damansara Jaya student, is currently pursuing the matriculation programme implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) in Malacca Matriculation College.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
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