Monday, 14 January 2013

PERMATApintar: From the inside

A lot of my friends from this program would probably agree with me: when someone asks us which school are we from, it’s the beginning of a hard-to-explain effort. I personally would have just answered, "Some school in Bangi". Only when they start to ask further would I explain into details that I study in the PERMATApintar program, and our school is literally located in the UKM. The responses would usually be either of these two : “Program PERMATApintar tu macam mana, eh?” or the total opposite of it “Owh, PERMATApintar, mesti pelajar pintar ni kan?”. It is exhaustive - I have to admit - that as the pioneers of this program, we carry such a big responsibility trying to keep up with other people's expectation. Since PERMATApintar is such a new and young program, I figured that I could give a hint to the public based on my personal experience being in this program. Just to be clear, I won’t be bragging about the program's history and its background as I’m pretty sure that you could obtain these from PERMATA official website. What I'll be sharing is some insight from how the program were for me to how it had shaped me to where I am so far. Here we go.


It started out when I was in Form 3 (in 2010), when out of the blue, our teacher told us that we were going to sit for some online test. I didn’t know what it was for, nor had I ever heard of PERMATApintar program before, so I just gave it a go because well, firstly it was compulsory for all of us and because this online test sounded really interesting. About a month or two later, a handful of students including me was told that we had passed the first test and that we would be taking a subsequent test. We were told further that if we were to pass this test, we would be offered a chance to attend the holiday camp, or officially known as the Program Perkhemahan Cuti Sekolah PERMATApintar. As an addition, the Form 3 students would also be invited to a 3 days camp before the beginning of the holiday camp called Perkhemahan Khas Sains dan Matematik, a stage where you will be further evaluated in order for your admission to the newly established PERMATApintar school which was named Program Pendidikan PERMATApintar.


As a very very short summary to what happened in the following month, I managed to get into the holiday camp and hence the math and science camp (since I was in Form 3) and soon I was offered for a place at the school. I was such in a huge dilemma to decide between staying at my current school at that time which was already a top notch school (it was MRSM Langkawi) or pursuing this program that was only beginning and risking my own future? Following my quick instinct, I ended up choosing to go to this new school, hoping that I might gain better and improvised education catered more suitably for me as it had promised. I swear the feeling that I had was like being a kamikaze throwing herself into a huge uncertainty.


This table below is a full summary to how our curriculum was. Keep in mind that this was used for the duration that I was there which was between 2011-2012 so the curriculum might change for the succeeding students.

    Academic component

    1. Core curriculum: SPM -  Our core syllabus was based on the syllabus provided by the Ministry of Education (MOE, or KPM) with ALL THREE science subjects; Chemistry, Physics and Biology and the rest; Bahasa Melayu,Bahasa Inggeris, Sejarah, Pendidikan Agama Islam/Moral, Modern Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. So how does this make it different from the other schools? The two next items will tell you why.
    2. Accelerated curriculum : Advanced Placement (AP), O level, A level, Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) - When we first learned Biology and Chemistry, we were learning according to the Advanced Placement syllabus which basically means that the materials that we learned were more in depth and advanced comparing to the SPM syllabus. These two syllabi roughly have the same topics but as I said, the AP syllabus is more accelerated. If I were to tell you more about the AP it would have been kind of dragging and misleading from our main point here, so I would highly recommend you to feed your curiosity by yourself (i.e. Google). Anyway, we didn’t touch the O level and A level contents because I’m pretty sure that they also have different curriculum structures. We stopped learning the AP syllabus after a few months when suddenly the school started to stick with the SPM realizing that all of us would have to take the SPM anyway. If you're thinking that this might be another plan gone wrong, let me remind you that this school had just begun and it still needs a whole lot of adjustments before it can finally settle down with one final curriculum. Maybe the school would start again with the AP or maybe they would even extract the A level courses, yet again these will all take time
    3. First year college courses - During my time, the students were only offered two mathematics courses from the Science and Technology Faculty of UKM which are Linear Algebra and Calculus. For my batch, we had to learn Calculus during the second semester of our first year and Linear Algebra on the first semester of our second year. We were taught by the lecturers from the faculty and personally, I think the courses were very challenging yet they were also very exciting.
    Foreign language: We also had to take foreign language classes which again were taught by the linguistic lecturers from the university. So far, the languages that we had to learn are Japanese and French with the learning duration of about one semester per language, pretty much similar to mathematics courses above.

    Scientific Project/Research: At first, I bet most of my friends would agree with me if I say that this component is the one that we mostly feared of. But after the end of the whole thing, I personally admit that this is actually the best part of the whole program. So apparently here is how this research component works like: Each students would be assigned with a research mentor (a professor or lecturer from the university) to work on a scientific project. (A group of my friends had Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar as their mentor, what the heck!) The students will be divided according to their field of interest and some would have to work in groups or pairs or for some people like me, individually. We had to consistently keep up with the meetings with these mentors to plan and design our projects. It all literally depends on what you and your mentor have decided for the project and the time length for a project from another would then differ. At the end of the whole research, you would then have to write a thesis and do a presentation at a convention that would be held near the end of your study. I recalled when I first held my printed thesis that I felt like my newborn child, I almost shed a tear out of the feeling of triumph and satisfaction (sorry for the emotional interruption)

    Portfolio Evaluation: You would also have to submit a portfolio of yourself to the counsellors at the end of the study to be evaluated and counted for the total point.

    Co-curriculum: We were lucky enough to have the chance to reside on the campus as we had the opportunity to be offered with art and cultural classes from Pusat Kebudayaan UKM. Some of us got to do theatre, dance, gamelan, angklung, orchestra, choir etc. We also had sports and uniform bodies such as bowling, Police Cadet, Red Crescent Society, golf, horse-riding (I know), basketball, tennis and some others. Another form of co-curriculum that we got to do is by participating in competitions. A few of my very fortunate friends were chosen to participate at the international level based on their projects and academic achievement and went to places like Dubai, Jeju Island of Korea and Johns Hopkins University in the United States. Sadly, I’m not one of them but never mind, not my luck maybe. We also had the opportunity to compete with other schools through language festivals like pantun and public speaking. The most interesting part about this is that, instead of relying to the teachers to choose students to represent the school, you mostly could sign yourself up for any events that might interest you. Screening tests might be held, but your chance of participation is very high (since you're the one who come up with the idea)

    Identity development: This is actually the lightest component of all to my opinion. We basically would have to attend a session of identity development for every week where we would have guest speakers coming to the school to share their knowledge and experience on certain fields to give us insights and ideas on how we should prepare ourselves for the future. Once, for a few weeks, we had grooming sessions by a professional teaching us how to present ourselves by the way we dress and communicate. Ain’t we all love that? For this component, we also were sent to boot camps where we would have to not only experience psychological but physical trainings. We had two camps, one for each year, I really like them both; they felt like a brief getaway from the heftiness of the school life.

    A picture from the first camp

    I'm totally going to do cave trekking again after this

    And that my friends, is the end of the brief story that I could share regarding the program. Sure there’s MUCH MUCH more to tell, but after all of these, I pretty much can assure you that you would already have the basic knowledge of how it is like. Just to add to the excitement, I would also love to conclude my personal recounts after about one year and 8 months of being in Program Pendidikan PERMATApintar.

    Having to bring phone and laptop to school. It may sound a little childish to be so excited over this thing but I have to tell you that it is really convenient and helpful to have these tools to aid our learning (and also communication). After all, it is also a good practice for us to learn to cope with having to bring technology to school, because we learn to control ourselves and know what to expect of when we become too carried away by them e.g. not getting to finish the assignment, lack of sleep, doesn’t have enough time to study.

    This is not a kindergarten, really. And ignore the pictures on my laptop screen, I was just checking out some cars, apparently.

    MY GOOD FRIENDS! For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to mingle with friends that come not only from different races but also states as far as Sabah, Sarawak and Kelantan. Just by naming these states, I could imagine the faces already. We had such good memory and time together, of offending each other mostly (haha, that’s what friends do all the time). I got to learn a lot from their culture and was at times left in awe by their courage and capabilities and cuteness (yes, I’m talking about you Avra). I had such an awesome roommate, I think the most awesome that I’d ever had up until now hahaha.

    My awesome classmates.

    Friends coming over to my house

    My research project. Thinking about this gets me emotional again, after months of hard work in the lab, I finally get the research done by myself and of course with the strong support of my mentor and her research assistant and also credit to the instructors who without fail had been willing to take me almost every day to the lab. I got to carry out my research project by using one of the labs at the Engineering Faculty in UKM, working alone for my project alongside a PhD and a graduate student. At times when I couldn’t get to understand one of the processes that I have to carry out, I was fortunate to have them working in the lab too as I can easily ask them for guidance. Although I didn’t get to present my project at the convention as I had to leave to United States earlier before, I thanked Allah for giving me the courage to carry out the assignment successfully.

    One of the set ups that I have to work with.
    Sometimes when there was no other people working in the lab,  I got to have the lab on my own! Is this awesome or what?

    Fast track program. Out of my surprise, after the first semester of our first year in the school, a group of students were called out for a meeting and informed that we were offered for a fast track program. The idea of this program is that we would have to prepare for the university applications only for the United States to pursue our majors in pure science or mathematics. If we are accepted to any colleges, and passed the interview for our scholarships, we get to dismiss ourselves from SPM. So this means yay! you would think, but yay! comes with a price, a really heavy one. Again, I was hit with dilemma because I’ve always prefer to study in the United Kingdom over the States. But I made up my mind, and probably again became a kamikaze, because I felt that it was a chance of a lifetime. Over the next three months, the lives of 15 of us, were being thrown upside down, juggling between the school life (final exams, assignments and research projects) and the preparation for TOEFL, SAT, SPM (for BM only) and university application. Alhamdulillah, to cut the long story short, I was offered for admission to the University of California, Davis to major in Chemistry so as the rest of 14 others in some other prominent colleges in the United States.

    Who are those people sharing the stage with TUN DR MAHATHIR? Wait, the left one to Tun Dr M is familiar, hahaha it was me! (astaghfirullahalazim..) This is truly the most unforgettable moment that I will treasure for my lifetime. The chance to not only meet Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad but also having the opportunity to interview him in a talk program. I was so overly excited when we were informed that Tun Dr. Mahathir would be visiting our school and that he would also be giving a talk to all of us during the event, but when I was told to become the moderator, I died of happiness. InsyaAllah I will try to make a post regarding my experience of interviewing him directly (since I’ve already started blogging)

    Here's an up close picture. If you think that I'm showing off, well, I am.

    Finally, another favourite event of mine is when I was selected to become one of the panelists alongside Kevin (my BFF haha!) and Asyraf as the moderator in a forum with a Nobel Laureate, Prof Muhd Yunus, who came to visit our school. We were discussing over a topic of “How to make the world a better place?” (pretty much like that) and I got to talk about the topic that I love the most which is the environment!

    It was truly amazing getting to meet him. You should learn the story about this humble yet extraordinary man.

    It is definitely a difficult task to compile all of my experiences in the program in this one post but I hope if you happen to read up until this point, you had gained slightly more information about this program. It had totally changed my life in such an enormous way, and I am thankful and thankful to Allah for directing me to the decision to choose this program at the beginning. Maybe I’m still very inexperienced and naïve but at least I’ve become much clearer of the duty that I have for my own country. This seems like a very big task- it is - but InsyaAllah I will give my all to make this happen!


    Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Cool, you should really tweet about it in the internet :)

    Since, that's the medium people use nowdays to send a message to the world!

    You can't rely on people to google out your blogs via the internet, as it is a big world full of bytes of data :D

    Maybe, by the power of #(hash tags) people would read about this!


    Alana Kay said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Your blog is so famous right now because of this post :)

    otaku-aoi said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Wow, this is so awesome! :D
    Last year I had the chance to go to PPCS and also sit for the test to enter Sekolah Permata Pintar. Unfortunately, almost all the questions in the test were way too difficult for me to answer, as I was only 13 at the time. :( I want to ask you how on earth did you manage to answer the questions? How much marks did you have to score on the test to enter the school? :D

    Nur Syazana Natasha Hisham said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    @otaku-aoi Well, they didn't tell us what score should we get nor did they give the result to us. I believe everything is pretty confidential, and you have to answer everything based on your knowledge..

    Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    good work, now I can understand this Permata Pintar better. I hope you do great there in the usa, all the best.

    Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Do the students need to take SPM and Bahasa Melayu as a main subject?

    Audrey Price said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Interesting blog about
    holiday camp

    Rafidah Rahim said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

    Thanks Syazana. Your post gives me a better insights in deciding if my son should also join the program. Wishing you well and doing great in US. Do return home and contribute more to Malaysia.

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