What’s next af­ter SPM

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - ROZANA SANI rsani@nst.com.my

TO­MOR­ROW, the wait will be over for 434,535 can­di­dates who sat the 2016 Si­jil Pe­la­jaran Malaysia (SPM) ex­am­i­na­tion. With the an­nounce­ment of the exam re­sults to­mor­row, SPM school-leavers now have to face the daunt­ing task of tak­ing the next step in terms of fur­ther­ing their ed­u­ca­tion.

Af­ter a struc­tured school sys­tem where stu­dents gen­er­ally pur­sued ei­ther the sci­ence or arts stream, how best can they de­cide on the field of study and pro­gramme? The de­ci­sion is not a light one as it is the first step to­wards de­ter­min­ing the path their fu­ture will take.


Pro­fes­sional ca­reer coach Nik Faiz Iskan­dar Nik Za­hari said stu­dents in the coun­try tend to view higher ed­u­ca­tion as a mere pa­per chase.

“Most stu­dents here re­gard in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing as a means to gain a diploma or de­gree qual­i­fi­ca­tion that they can boast about. This mind­set has to change. School-leavers and as­pir­ing un­der­grad­u­ates have to plan their fu­ture ca­reers be­fore de­cid­ing on the course that they want to pur­sue,” he said.

Pro­fes­sional trainer and mo­ti­va­tor Jack­son Ng said SPM school-leavers should not be pres­sured by their peers to ap­ply for a par­tic­u­lar course or suc­cumb to their par­ents’ de­mands. In­stead, they should look to them­selves for in­di­ca­tors of their in­ter­est, tal­ents and in­cli­na­tion.

“Iden­tify your pas­sion. Look at your in­nate abil­i­ties — the tal­ent you are born with. Pay at­ten­tion to the com­pli­ments oth­ers give you with re­gards to what you are good at.

“And lis­ten to the voice in­side of you, what you are keen on. These are in­di­ca­tors of the field of study you should pur­sue. Of course, these have to be mapped against the cur­rent and fu­ture job mar­ket,” he said.

Ng cau­tioned that of­ten­times when stu­dents base their de­ci­sion on friends or are pushed by their par­ents, they end up switch­ing cour­ses half­way, re­sult­ing in loss of money and time. Or if the stu­dent does grad­u­ate and earn a diploma or de­gree, he finds him­self un­able to find em­ploy­ment as he has no pas­sion for the field.

De­cid­ing on stud­ies af­ter Form Five can be stress­ful if one does not have knowl­edge of the ca­reer de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, said HELP Univer­sity lec­turer and coun­sel­lor Justin Yap.

“Ideally, one should have knowl­edge about both one­self and the world of work. Self-knowl­edge in the ar­eas of in­ter­ests, ap­ti­tudes and skills, per­son­al­ity, as well as val­ues is es­sen­tial.

“Se­condly, it is vi­tal to have some knowl­edge about the work­place such as a ba­sic job de­scrip­tion, of­fice en­vi­ron­ment and re­quire­ments such as skills and ed­u­ca­tion.

“When we have both these sets of in­for­ma­tion, we are then able to match who we are and what the job re­quires, pro­vid­ing a per­son-en­vi­ron­ment fit which re­sults in a high per­form­ing and sat­is­fied worker. Even though a stu­dent may only be con­cerned about a field of study or a ma­jor, it’s al­ways best to take a long-term view as one only spends three to eight years at univer­sity but close to 30 years in the work­place,” he said.

Ca­reer Cube head and con­sul­tant Mas­tura Man­sor rec­om­mends SPM school-leavers take a per­son­al­ity test to find out their in­ter­est.

“A com­mon test for stu­dents is the Hol­land Code (RIASEC). RIASEC is the Hol­land Oc­cu­pa­tional Themes which re­fer to a the­ory of per­son­al­ity that fo­cuses on ca­reer and vo­ca­tional choice. It groups peo­ple on the ba­sis of their suit­abil­ity for six cat­ego- ries of oc­cu­pa­tions. In RIASEC, stu­dents dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves with six dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and in­ter­ests,” she said.

The char­ac­ters are sum­marised as ei­ther re­al­is­tic, in­ves­tiga­tive, artis­tic, so­cial, en­ter­pris­ing or con­ven­tional.

The RIASEC Code guides stu­dents on the en­vi­ron­ment and ca­reer that will suit their per­son­al­ity. “Once they know their per­son­al­ity and their favourite sub­ject, they can find out more about ca­reers that suit them and choose an in­sti­tu­tion for pur­su­ing their stud­ies.”


Both sci­ence and arts sec­ondary school-leavers have a va­ri­ety of fields to choose from at higher learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

It is a mis­con­cep­tion that arts stu­dents have sec­ond class op­tions as they can have their pick of pro­grammes such as so­cial sci­ence, hu­man­i­ties, ed­u­ca­tion (spe­cial, sports, lan­guage, mu­sic, early child, etc), busi­ness, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, art (graphic me­dia, an­i­ma­tion, etc), hos­pi­tal­ity and hu­man re­sources.

“Stu­dents just need to choose the course that matches their per­son­al­ity and in­ter­ests,” said Mas­tura.

Both arts and sci­ence stream stu­dents need to free them­selves from the “box” they were put in at school, Ng added.

“Con­ven­tional wis­dom has it that those in the sci­ence stream are des­tined to be pro­fes­sion­als while those in the arts stream go into busi­ness. This is not true — sci­ence stu­dents can do well in fields such as psy­chol­ogy, for ex­am­ple.

“Al­though an arts back­ground may seem like a lesser choice and an un­fair start­ing point, the re­al­ity is that many pro­fes­sion­als with sci­ence back­ground work for busi­nesses or cor­po­ra­tions, or for en­trepreneurs from the arts stream,” said Ng, adding that ev­ery in­dus­try is a busi­ness and there is equal op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed.

“Any­way, what we study is not a worry as there is a ten­dency for a per­son to do some­thing else ev­ery five years. Life is all about progress. Life­long learn­ing is key.”

Yap com­mented that at the Form Five level, the arts stu­dent is only held back by ef­fort.

“Even though the arts stu­dent may be at a slight dis­ad­van­tage in terms of sci­en­tific knowl­edge, he or she can over­come it by spend­ing ex­tra time read­ing to make up for it. To rule out

There is a ten­dency for a per­son to do some­thing else ev­ery five years. Life is all about progress. Life­long learn­ing is key. JACK­SON NG Pro­fes­sional trainer and mo­ti­va­tor

SPM school-leavers face the daunt­ing task of tak­ing the next step in terms of fur­ther­ing their ed­u­ca­tion.

Nik Faiz Iskan­dar Nik Za­hari at a ca­reer sem­i­nar for Form Five stu­dents.

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