School Leavers Don’t Want To Further Their Studies After SPM: Why?

In recent years, Malaysia has witnessed a notable shift in the educational trajectories of its youth. It is startling to note that a substantial 72.1% of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) graduates opt not to pursue higher education after their secondary schooling, as indicated by data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM). This trend signifies a growing inclination among young Malaysians towards immediate entry into the workforce. A DOSM report in 2019 painted a telling picture: out of 560,000 SPM candidates, a staggering 390,000 articulated their eagerness to join the workforce immediately post-exams, leaving only 170,000 with a desire to continue their academic journey.

So, what underpins this paradigm shift? As reported by Utusan Malaysia, three primary factors wield significant influence over the decisions of 17- and 18-year-olds.

Job Opportunities in the Gig Economy

Firstly, the allure of job opportunities in the gig economy holds substantial appeal. The gig economy has burgeoned in Malaysia, providing a pragmatic avenue for many to secure a sustainable income. However, it is imperative to recognise that a substantial proportion of school leavers are taking on low-skilled roles, such as drivers or food delivery personnel. 

While these roles may initially offer earnings commensurate with entry-level positions for degree holders, they seldom proffer long-term career progression. It is imperative to acknowledge that many school leavers engage in such work to support their families. Nonetheless, this is an interim solution to a long-term conundrum. Instead, exploring short-term courses for upskilling, considering weekend diploma or degree programmes, or even embracing a work-study approach can furnish a more balanced and sustainable trajectory. The gig economy, characterised by its flexible work hours, affords students unprecedented latitude to manage both earning a living and advancing their educational pursuits.

“I want to be a YouTuber, TikToker” – The Rise of The ‘Influencer Dream’

Another noteworthy trend influencing school leavers is the aspiration to become influencers on various social media platforms. While success stories abound, the reality is that the path to social media stardom is replete with challenges. Statistics indicate that only a minute fraction of aspiring influencers attain substantial success. A more pragmatic approach is to pursue the “influencer dream” part-time while simultaneously pursuing higher education. Programmes such as mass communication, marketing, digital advertising, and performing arts offer valuable skill sets that align seamlessly with a career in social media influence. This dual approach not only diversifies skill sets but also ensures a stable foundation for the future.

 A Degree does not Equal Better Jobs!

Lastly, there persists a prevailing belief that further education does not necessarily lead to enhanced job prospects. While it is true that education alone does not guarantee high-paying positions, it is equally valid that an over-reliance on low-skilled gig economy jobs is not a sustainable strategy. Education today encompasses a broader spectrum of options, including micro-credentials, technical and vocational education, and short courses. These avenues empower individuals to upskill and remain competitive in an ever-evolving job market.

Discerning the shifting preferences of Malaysian school leavers is pivotal in crafting effective strategies to address the challenges they encounter. By understanding the factors that influence their decisions, we can implement a multifaceted approach that bridges the gap between education and employment. Encouraging a balanced approach that harmonises work with learning, pursuing influencer aspirations in tandem with education, and acknowledging the diverse educational pathways available can ultimately lead to a more empowered and prosperous future for Malaysia’s youth.



About the Author:


 Manager, Group Marketing & Globalisation, SEGi University & Colleges

 Li Chun Young (CY) is a seasoned professional with nearly a decade of experience in higher learning marketing and the training & development sector. Currently serving as the Manager of Group Marketing & Globalisation at SEGi University & Colleges, he has orchestrated over RM20 million worth of dynamic digital and traditional marketing campaigns for one of Malaysia’s largest private higher education institutions. Beyond marketing, CY is a distinguished Digital Marketing Trainer appointed by Institut Keusahawanan Negara (INSKEN) under the Malaysian Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Corporation. His expertise extends to providing training and consultancy services for prominent entities, including Mazda, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Harvey Norman, and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation. A familiar face at education fairs, he advises countless parents and students on their post-high school education choices, reflecting his genuine commitment to empowering young minds. CY’s multifaceted contributions make him a standout figure in the Malaysian educational landscape.


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