Are you ready for col­lege life?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Education Guide -

PROSPEC­TIVE univer­sity stu­dents are gen­er­ally aware that ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is dif­fer­ent from sec­ondary school. But how ready are they?

As­soc Prof Jane Terp­stra-Tong and Adlina Ah­mad from the School of Busi­ness, Monash Univer­sity Malaysia, found “an ob­vi­ous dis­con­nect be­tween high school ed­u­ca­tion and univer­sity re­quire­ments”.

Based on in­ter­views with firstyear busi­ness stu­dents, they found four main ar­eas in which stu­dents lacked univer­sity readi­ness. The first and largest chal­lenge was in­de­pen­dent learn­ing and re­search as­sign­ments. The stu­dents had lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence with such as­sign­ments, which are more com­mon in Western uni­ver­si­ties.

Next, al­most all the stu­dents said time man­age­ment was a chal­lenge. In sec­ondary school, they did not need to man­age time so ef­fec­tively. But in univer­sity, they face a large num­ber of as­sign­ments.

Prof Tong and Adlina noted that “time man­age­ment is a life skill that takes time to de­velop” and it would be best to teach this skill in sec­ondary school.

Third, most stu­dents wished they had a bet­ter com­mand of English, es­pe­cially in read­ing and writ­ing. Though many had grad­u­ated from a pre-univer­sity pro­gramme con­ducted in English, they felt a stronger com­mand of the lan­guage would help them han­dle the high vol­ume of as­sign­ments and pre­sen­ta­tions.

Fourth, the “spoon-feed­ing” school sys­tem, which most Malaysian stu­dents are ac­cus­tomed to, led to “a gen­eral lack of crit­i­cal think­ing skills”.

As a re­sult of th­ese chal­lenges, many stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enced stress.

Among the 35 stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in this study, 83% were Malaysian and the rest were in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from mostly Asian coun­tries.

They were re­cruited from two pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties – a for­eign univer­sity’s branch cam­pus and a lo­cal univer­sity of­fer­ing Bri­tish busi­ness pro­grammes.

Most stud­ies on first-year ad­just­ment have fo­cused on univer­sity stu­dents in the West. How­ever, this qual­i­ta­tive study pro­vides much-needed data from an Asian sam­ple.

Prof Tong and Adlina de­fined univer­sity readi­ness in three ar­eas: aca­demic, skill and psy­cho­log­i­cal readi­ness.

Aca­demic readi­ness con­sists of con­tent knowl­edge in ar­eas such as science, lan­guage, math­e­mat­ics, so­cial stud­ies and the arts.

Skill readi­ness en­com­passes abil­i­ties such as crit­i­cal think­ing, re­search, time man­age­ment, exam-tak­ing, note-tak­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal readi­ness con­sists of at­ti­tudes nec­es­sary for learn­ing and liv­ing in­de­pen­dently such as self-dis­ci­pline and in­quis­i­tive­ness.

Uni­ver­si­ties should pro­vide im­par­tial coun­selling, ex­am­ine their ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments and set an ap­pro­pri­ate ad­mis­sion stan­dard for English.

First-year sem­i­nars can help them know what to ex­pect in univer­sity and what is ex­pected of them. Fi­nally, a writ­ing cen­tre could pro­vide stu­dents with as­sis­tance in writ­ing skills.

Sec­ondary schools, mean­while, could part­ner with uni­ver­si­ties to de­velop a cur­ricu­lum. They can en­cour­age stu­dents to give se­ri­ous thought to their fu­ture and what they can do to de­velop the skills needed to suc­ceed in univer­sity.

■ Monash Univer­sity Malaysia is cel­e­brat­ing its 20th year this year. Join the cel­e­bra­tions on March 17 from 7pm to 9pm. For de­tails, visit

The four main ar­eas where sec­ondary stu­dents lack univer­sity readi­ness are in­de­pen­dent learn­ing and re­search as­sign­ments, time man­age­ment, proper com­mand of English and crit­i­cal think­ing skills.

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