Off to college
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: College/University on 4 Jun 2009.
The education terrain in the country is constantly shifting, so an educator reminded me at a recent meeting. Expect admissions policies to change as well. Especially when the Ministry of Education gets a new Minister every few years. College-bound homeschoolers who are thinking of admission into colleges in Malaysia are understandably jittery.
Do private colleges accept homeschoolers anyway? Should I sit for SAT or IGCSE O Level? Will a college take me in if I have neither? What if I am an unschooler? Do I have to show competence in Bahasa Malaysia? Why isn’t my SAT 1 score sufficient for admission? Questions, questions. To help unravel this Gordion Knot, I met up with the CEO of Life College and her helpful staff. Here’s a summary:
All colleges registered under the Ministry of Higher Education offering approved/accredited Diploma programmes require that a Malaysian student has completed and passed SPM (pass BM and credits in 3 other subjects) or its equivalent, such as IGCSE O Level, UEC (Chinese Unified Exam), etc.
In Malaysia, MQA (Malaysian Qualifications Agency) has the sole authority to decide what qualifying exams are acceptable. All colleges are subject to a list of officially approved entry exams given by MQA. Since the MQA is not familiar with homeschooling curricula and systems (and neither are homeschooling curricula on the approved list), this poses some difficulty for colleges that may want to admit a homeschooler.
YEAR 11 & SAT 1
This explains why SAT 1 is not sufficient to get a homeschooler into a local private college. In keeping with MQA requirements, a student must have successfully completed SPM “or its equivalent.” In homeschoolspeak, this means a Year 11 certificate or transcript (Year 11 matches the required “SPM or its equivalent” milestone).
On top of that, many colleges have admission staff who may not have heard of homeschool or SAT. Therefore it is necessary to explain what is homeschool, and how a homeschooler’s course of study and achievements are measured vis-a-vis the conventional SPM route. Parents will have to help admission staff unfamiliar with homeschool understand how a homeschooler has attained the necessary preparation for tertiary studies.
THE IGCSE O LEVEL OPTION
Granted this hurdle, it is now clear that IGCSE O Level is possibly the least problematic and the best means forward in a homeschooler’s education pathway into a private college in Malaysia, whatever curriculum he or she may be using (Sonlight, AOP, ACE, Abeka, etc).
Homeschoolers can easily set aside a year to prepare for the O Level as a private candidate. They can sign up and study the necessary textbooks (minimum 3 subjects) at home,or sign up at tuition centres offering O Level. Several such centres have been set up in KL/PJ in recent years (such as this). The O Level is offered by Cambridge and London boards and here’s a short description by a student.
However, Life College throws homeschoolers a lifeline: show proof of Year 11, and send in your SAT 1. If a student is enrolled with a learning centre using AOP (Alpha Omega Publications) or ACE School of Tomorrow curriculum, a transcript confirming he/she has successfully completed Year 11 attached with SAT1 paves the way. (I have been given to understand that a fee is payable for the release of an official student transcript from some centres). In any case, according to Life College, a personally prepared transcript is just as acceptable.
What’s a transcript, you ask? Unlike a resume which records activities and extra-curricular achievements, a transcript is simply a record of a student’s course of study for the years the child has been homeschooled. What is of particular interest to a college registrar would be a student’s study particularly from Grade 6 and above.
Because many homeschoolers do not have grade assessments (unlike those using textbook curricula such as ACE and AOP), these transcripts help College registrars unfamiliar with homeschooling understand what have been studied. Parents could bring along their child’s textbooks, but this is entirely up to you. I would think a properly written transcript with clearly defined courses completed is sufficient.
But here’s a caveat. While most private colleges are happy to receive a homeschooler many are concerned that they meet MQA’s stringent regulations. As such, some colleges may not accept a personally prepared transcript. Only when they can map an education pathway equivalent to SPM, can the college justify this homeschooler’s admission to MQA. However, there have been cases where a personal interview with parents and the prospective student will open doors (sometimes with conditions).If you have doubts, please see the relevant college registrars.
BAHASA MALAYSIA & YOU
All Malaysian students in private colleges have to take the Bahasa Malaysia paper if they do not have a credit for that subject in their SPM. In addition they have two other compulsory LAN papers Pengajian Malaysia (Malaysian Studies) and Pengajian Islam (Islamic Civilisation) or Pendidikan Moral (Moral Studies), which are taught in Bahasa. As such, it would be advantageous for all homeschoolers intending to study in local private colleges to obtain and maintain a good grasp of the Bahasa.
Read also my previous entry:Next stop-university
The thing about homeschool is the array of methodologies and convictions. Some folks disavow structures, preferring the unschooling option. Then there are those who subscribe to a Bible-based curriculum. Others stick to a regimented course and do not stray from the recommended curriculum. Still others have a more flexible approach determined only by the end of a child’s education. Whatever the method or curriculum, if your homeschooler intends to be in a local college (in this case, a local private college) all your effort will haave to dovetail into an acceptable document that satisfies college authorities. Of course college isn’t the be-all and end-all. If that’s not your child’s preferred route, that’s fine too.