Are you ready for college life?
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 www.monash.edu.my.
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.