STPM vs Foundation Course – Which is the Best Choice?
After SPM, there are many different pathways for you to choose from and sometimes it can be confusing. Because of this confusion, some students just take the easy way out of by choosing to study Form 6. This is actually a very bad decision as you must take the time to understand the system and how Form 6 works to see if you are able to handle the material to pass. Scoring high in STPM is possible but it takes immense amount of focus and hard work. If you are not prepared for that, then you are already doomed from the start. To help you to decide, find out more about the Foundation and STPM programmes in details and then see which one suits you.
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STPM Vs Foundation Course in Malaysia
Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) is Malaysia’s version of the UK’s GCE A-Levels and is a Pre-University course recognised for entry into public universities (IPTA) in Malaysia. The STPM is acknowledged as one of the toughest exams in the world to study. The other way is the Matriculation course where only 10% of the seats are set aside for Non-bumis therefore the competition will be extremely high for the spots.
A better choice, if you have the finances is to go for the Foundation course at top private universities in Malaysia. The Foundation course is 1 year which will save you time compared to the STPM and when you continue on to the degree course, you get to choose what you want to study.
In addition, students with high distinctions have the advantage of scholarships for Foundation Programmes at the private universities. Since the Foundation programme is much easier than the STPM, you would probably get a high score in the Foundation programme and get a scholarship for the Degree course. However, if you choose the STPM which is extremely tough, although you may pass but you may not get 3As or 4As in STPM to apply for scholarships at Private Universities in Malaysia.
Choosing the right Pre-University course that fits you would mean that you have to ask yourself which methods of assessment best suit you? Exams, coursework, practicals, group projects and presentations could all be in the mix in differing quantities.
Every Pre-University course in Malaysia will include a percentage of the breakdown of assessment for the subjects. You need to understand yourself and capabilities in order to decide which Pre-University course would best suit you. Students who are not sure of what to study after SPM can contact EduSpiral Consultant Services to help guide you to choose the right course and university.
After SPM, one of the choices that students have is to take Form 6 and eventually the STPM examination. Most students choose the STPM because of financial difficulties which is a valid reason. However, if your parents can afford or if they can sacrifice, it is better to go for the Foundation programme at private universities in Malaysia. In the article below, we will discuss in detail the advantages and disadvantages of taking the STPM and why you should take the Foundation programme.
List of the Best Private Universities Offering Top-Rate Foundation Programmes in Malaysia
- Taylor’s College
- Asia Pacific University (APU)
- Heriot-Watt University Malaysia
- University of Nottingham Malaysia
- UOWM KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie
- UOWM KDU Penang University College
- Multimedia University (MMU) Cyberjaya
- Multimedia University (MMU) Melaka
- UOWM KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie
- HELP University
- First City University College
- Saito University College
- MAHSA University
- Berjaya University College
- Foundation in Commerce
- Foundation in Hospitality
Studying the Foundation Course at Top Private Universities & Colleges in Malaysia
Malaysian private universities have been preparing students for study in top universities worldwide since the 1970s therefore they have the necessary experience to ensure quality for the Foundation programmes are adhered to.
Students after SPM or O-Levels should choose the foundation programme in Malaysia that best fits their career goals and needs. Students will take about 10-12 subjects in 3 semesters (1 year) for the Foundation programme at private universities in Malaysia.
If you are still not sure of what to study for your degree, the Foundation programme is a good choice and is shorter in duration than the STPM and less difficult.
- Duration: 1 year
- Entry Requirements: Min. 5 credits, inclusive of Maths and 2 pure Science subjects for Foundation in Science or Engineering. For IT, you must have a credit in Maths. Other courses just require 5 credits. For Medicine and Pharmacy, Min. 5B in Maths, Additional Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics but will vary from university to university.
- Recognition: Mostly in Malaysia and some overseas. As long as the Foundation course is accredited by MQA, it will be accepted by another private university for entry into the relevant degree programme.
- Cost: Generally cheaper than overseas Pre-University courses and A-Levels
Assessment for Foundation Courses
Assessment for Foundation programmes in Malaysia will vary from university to university. It will contain a mix of coursework, assignments, quizzes and exams. The coursework could cover different assessment tasks such as projects, assignments, laboratory work, presentations, tests, and others as assigned throughout each semester. The final examination is conducted at the end of each semester. The assessments are subject to quality assurance procedures to maintain high standards and ensuring fair assessment.
Unlike the external pre-university programmes in Malaysia which focus on more general Science and Art-based subjects, the Foundation programmes for private universities provide specialisation in specific areas of study such as business, computer & IT, or engineering, and hence, cater to the specific needs of different students.
However, there are also general Foundation programmes such as Foundation in Arts and Foundation in Science offered by the private universities. Foundation in Science programmes can lead to engineering, pharmacy, medicine, applied sciences, health sciences and other arts related degree programmes. The Foundation in Arts programme can lead to accounting, business, computing, architecture, design, and other arts related courses. After completing the Foundation in Science students have the choice to choose sciences or arts related degree programmes.
What is the STPM?
Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) is Malaysia’s version of the UK’s GCE A-Levels and is a Pre-University course recognised for entry into public universities (IPTA) in Malaysia. The STPM is also accepted for entry into private universities in Malaysia and overseas universities.
The STPM is acknowledged as one of the toughest exams in the world. The other way to enter public university (IPTA) is the Matriculation course where only 10% of the seats are set aside for Non-bumis therefore the competition will be extremely high for the spots.
The STPM is set and run by the Malaysian Examinations Council since 1982, which also runs the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) since 1999. All students who have passed the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are eligible to enter into Form 6 to take the STPM, and will be automatically assigned a place in a government secondary school after the release of the SPM results.
The examination body, Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia (www.mpm.edu.my), allows students to enroll for the examination with a minimum of one (1) subject and a maximum of five (5) subjects (including General Studies). The intake for Form 6 is in May of each year.
Most students take STPM after attending two years of Form 6 (Lower 6 and Upper 6) at a government or private secondary school.
Should I study Form Six and take the STPM In Malaysia?
In order to consider studying Form 6, students should take the time to understand the system and how Form 6 works. Let’s look at the statistics below to help you decide whether you should take Form 6 or not.
There were 58,355 students who took STPM in 2013 and in 2014 it dropped to 48,615 students. It is a drop of 16.69% (9,740 candidates)
48,615 candidates registered for the STPM examinations in 2014 but only 42,854 sat for it. Only 390 out of 48,615 STPM 2014 obtained a 4.0 CGPA. 57 candidates failed the exam.
The national CGPA was 2.62 but for non-bumis to get their courses of choice, you will need higher CGPA. Ten students scored 5As, and a total of 398 students scored 4As. To obtain scholarships from private universities or overseas, you need to score 4As or 5As, so based on this, you can calculate the chances of you scoring in the STPM and obtaining a scholarship.
27,342 (63.80%), passed in four subjects, 7,130 in three subjects, 3,563 in two subjects and 2,410 passed just one subject. Pass here includes D and E. You need at least 2 Cs to join a degree course in private universities.
The number of candidates achieving 4 Principals (C) in STPM 2014 is 60.14 per cent. You need at least 2 Principals to join a degree course in private universities.
If you had scored high is SPM, you are eligible for scholarships for Foundation programmes at top private universities. The Foundation programmes are easier and so if you score for Foundation, you can get more scholarships to cover part or all of your degree studies.
Problem is if you take the STPM which is so much tougher than the Foundation course, although Form 6 is free, but if you don’t score in STPM, you have no scholarship for your degree studies and in the end have to pay all of the fees for your degree studies in private university. Are you willing to take that risk?
Advantages of the STPM
With School Based Assessment, teaching and learning are integrated with assessment.
SBA humanises assessment making schooling a cooperative enterprise between teachers and students.
Through the new examination system, students will also have more opportunities to obtain better results. Students are allowed to improve on their first term and second term results by retaking these term examinations at the end of the third term. Students who do not obtain satisfactory results for the third term may also re-sit it.
Disadvantages of the STPM
Lower 6 used to be called the honeymoon year, but now, as soon as you enter Lower 6 you will have to hit the books because your first exam will be in December and you will have not much time to study and the teachers do no have enough time to cover the material as well. There is no rest as you will need to keep studying the exams every 6 months.
To enter into most private universities, students must achieve at least a CGPA of 2.00 or at least 2 Principal Cs in the relevant subjects. A C- is not a principal and some universities do not accept the Pengajian Am as entry into the university.
Moreover, the Form Six curriculum requires you to take in too much information in 1.5 years before taking the STPM exam. That in itself shows the inadequacies of a system which doesn’t give enough time for students to consume the information required. Furthermore, STPM needs a lot of study time in order to score well. If you are not ready to commit the time and effort, you should consider other options.
From the time you enter Form 6 till the exam and getting into IPTA would be 2 years. If you had taken a diploma, you would have already completed it. There are 180,000 graduates each year and competition for jobs are high therefore the faster you graduate, the faster you get a job and start your savings.
English is very important to secure a job as well as getting a higher salary and faster promotions. This is reported in the Star and from research conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia. On the other hand, the medium of instruction in IPTA is in BM and most of the Chinese there communicate in Mandarin. In 2011, 70,000 IPTA graduates were unemployed.
Personally, I only recommend the STPM if students do not have the finances to study in private universities but with the PTPN Loan, studying in the private colleges or universities are more accessible. In addition, a lot students and parents want to save money by going for the STPM but do not realise that for some, in the end, they are wasting time and eventually have to spend more money.
The STPM is extremely tough and if you do not do well, you would have wasted 2 years of your life and time is money. The earlier you graduate and join the work force, the more work experience you can gain and add this to your resume where it translates into higher salary.
If you take a diploma at a private university in Malaysia, you would have finished it at the same time you would have taken to complete Form 6. Alternatively, you can choose an easier way through the 1-year Foundation offered at the Private Universities.
You need a lot of discipline and good teachers in order to do well in the STPM. If you have alright results for your SPM, don’t expect a miracle in the STPM as it is 20 times tougher than the SPM.
Advantages & Disadvantages of taking Form 6
|Free||The toughest Pre-University course around|
|Modular system||Take 1.5 years but if you include the 6 months taken to enter Form 6 and the 6 months waiting to enter Public university, it will be 2.5 years|
|If you fail, then you would have wasted 2.5 years|
|English language not emphasized so you do not gain the all important language and communication skills needed to succeed in the workforce|
|You do not get to choose the course you want to enter Public University|
Modular System for the STPM
The new modular STPM format began in 2012, will combine two forms of assessments, and will be similar to the A levels format except that it will be in BM.
Students will go through a school-based assessment with a weighting of 20-40% of the final score and a centralised examination with a weighting of 60-80% of the final score (The weighting varies according to subjects).
Nevertheless, School Based Assessment (SBA) cannot be repeated and repeaters are required to sit for an alternative written paper in place with SBA.
The curriculum is divided into three parts based on topic areas. Each part will be taught and studied in either the first, second or third term.
You will take the examinations at the end of each term (3 in total). One term is 6 months. Students who are not satisfied with their results for the first two terms can retake the examinations at the end of the third term.
Students’ assessment will be carried out each term with the results being released at the end of each respective term. The overall STPM results will be based on the best combined results of the three terms.
Soft skill such as communication skills, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, problem solving,information management and ethics are included in the new curriculum.
School-Based Assessment (SBA) for the STPM
The introduction of SBA in this system is in line with the aspiration of the Education Ministry to develop human capital who embrace intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical values in line with the National Educational Philosophy.
The SBA consists of project work, field study and practical work. The coursework question/task is prepared by the Council and will be conducted either over three terms or as determined by the individual subject requirements.
A centralised written examination is administered at the end of each term. Question types consist of multiple choice, structured and essay questions. Question papers are prepared and provided by the Council, and the marking of answer scripts will be carried out by Council-appointed examiners.
What to Study After SPM?
Students who are not sure of what to study after SPM can contact EduSpiral Consultant Services to help guide you to choose the right course and university. There are many Pre-University or Diploma programmes that you can go for after SPM so it can be confusing for you to choose the right one.
Choosing the right university can be confusing and depends on a lot of factors like your budget, results, passion, skills and career goals. Students interested on how to choose the best universities in Malaysia for the particular courses like the ones below can contact me for more information:
Some of the Best Pre-University Programmes to Study in Malaysia
- Australian Pre-U
- Foundation (General)
- Foundation in Arts
- Foundation in Business Administration
- Foundation in Communication & Media Studies
- Foundation in Computing & Information Technology
- Foundation in Science
- Foundation in Business
- Foundation in Design
- Foundation in Engineering
- Pre-University Programmes
- South Australian Matriculation (SAM)