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The price of studying "abroad"


CURRENTLY, there are some 15,000 students from Johor attending private schools in Singapore as some consider the educational system there to be more advanced and of world standard.

The numbers do not indicate that our local education system is of a low standard. It merely shows that we have many high-income families in the state that choose to send their children to school there.

Imagine waking up at an ungodly hour, getting only five to six hours of sleep every night and clearing Immigration and Customs twice a day.

That is the life of the students who commute daily to school from Johor. And the best thing is, that they have no qualms about it.

Every day, one can see a number of school buses ferrying these students as early as 4am from their homes. Making a journey across the causeway every day is indeed a hazardous task.

During the journey, these students, clad in various uniforms, usually nap during the bus ride, listen to music on their CD players or chat with one another until they reach the immigration checkpoint.

After school ends at 1pm, the students board the buses to return home, arriving about 3pm.

The question is, why do these students choose to study in Singapore? The students endure all this for the sake of a "better" education; their parents believe the Singapore syllabus, conducted in English rather than Bahasa Malaysia as it is in Malaysia, better equips them for the future.

A number of students, I was told, struggle to stay awake in class due to lack of sleep. Apart from that, there is the stress that both the parents and children have to endure.

The parents have to work hard to pay the exorbitant education expenses, while the kids have to endure the longer travelling time to school.

The Singapore educational system is not better than ours and it is not fair to compare the educational standards of private schools with our local ones.

The Malaysian Education Ministry is also upgrading local secondary and primary schools in terms of infrastructure, academic standards and beefing up the teaching staff.

It is a known fact that our local schools are recognised as being among the best in developing countries, and there is no question about their standards.

I teach a number of students presently pursuing their studies in either secondary or primary schools on the island republic.

I asked them, why did they choose to study there? One replied: "Singapore schools teach all subjects in English, except second-language subjects like Chinese and Malay.

Another student of mine stressed: "The culture in Singapore is also very different. They have very good discipline and approachable teachers."

A 16-year-old girl said: "I feel lucky because Singapore schools have a fine environment for study, and there is less homework compared with my friends who study in Malaysian schools."

One parent said there was a price to pay for studying in Singapore as Malaysian students sacrifice many things their Singaporean counterparts take for granted, one of which is precious sleep.

I was also told that the students took on many school projects where they learnt teamwork as well as to be more independent. There is no spoon-feeding.

They wake up very early at 4.30am so they have enough time to get to school. Some even skip breakfast. They only reach school at about 7am.

Every day is a new adventure for these kids -- bad weather, traffic jams, long queues at the immigration checkpoint and a missed bus could make them late for school.

The high school fees in Singapore have never been an issue for Malaysian parents and they will continue sending their kids to the island republic as long as they can afford it.

For a number of Malaysian students currently studying in Singapore, the rigours of daily travel are not a cakewalk but a high price to pay for studying in a foreign land. But they don't mind the hassle, for the sake of the preferred medium of instruction and a pleasant learning environment.

The long queue of students at the Malaysian Immigration checkpoint at the early hours of the morning.

Malaysian students wait to board their school buses at the Woodlands checkpoint at the glimmer of dawn.

After getting their passports stamped, the kids proceed to the the Immigration waiting area to await the arrival of their buses.

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