25 Apr 2013

Best of Both Worlds

Two undergraduates at SMa Institute of Higher Learning tell us how life is like in one of Singapore’s most respected private schools.

In today’s competitive job climate, having recognized tertiary credentials can help you go far. Even though you might choose to embark on your career first after your polytechnic studies, you still have many options available to you if you wish to further your studies. Here’s where part-time degrees offer the best solution.

Evelyn Ho, a music teacher and private tutor in her 30s, and Farhaanah Mohamad Alwi, a 24-year-old client service officer at a bank, are fine examples of the viability of part-time degrees. The two students have chosen SMa Institute of Higher Learning (SMa Institute) to pursue their distance-learning part-time degrees.

SMa Institute is one of the most established private institutions. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation, which has nearly 80 years’ history in Singapore. The Institute has two campuses offering distance-learning degree courses – one situated in the city and another in Bukit Merah, each focusing on degrees conferred by Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University respectively.

Their top choice
Although a music teacher in a primary school by day, Evelyn wanted to continue nurturing her passion in psychology, something she had always been interested in.

Evelyn attributes her thirst for the subject to an incident when she had to help a friend with a psychology assignment. “I couldn’t put down the worksheet the minute I put my hands on it,” says Evelyn. “Eventually, I completed the whole assignment!” Being a teacher herself, she also chose to study psychology to better understand her students.

She decided to pursue a psychology degree from Edith Cowan University in partnership with SMa Institute. Evelyn chose the school after hearing good reviews from her friends, who had done a sizeable amount of research by “recce-ing” other private institutions, about its trusted reputation.

“Knowing that I will receive a Bachelor’s degree from Edith Cowan University – one of the most well-known universities in Western Australia – is a major draw factor for me,” explains Evelyn. The degree is accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council.

The shorter learning time to get the degree was also very attractive as it allowed her to complete her degree in less than two years.

Conducive, professional learning environment
Evelyn has had no regrets on joining SMa Institute and thoroughly enjoys the “professional classroom setting” of the school. “Everyone comes here to learn and the mood is serious. It is very conducive for learning,” she says. Evelyn looks forward to her classes, even those during the weekends when lecturers from Edith Cowan fly in.

“Our lecturers and tutors are very knowledgeable and share with us their real-life experiences,” says Evelyn. “They are very humorous too, which keeps us engaged during classes, even if we start feeling tired towards the evening.” She appreciates the fact that lecturers adhere closely to the curriculum’s timeline, ensuring that the learning process progresses smoothly.

The music teacher also appreciates the vibrant and lively classroom atmosphere, with students constantly posing questions to their lecturer. “Sometimes when a lecturer shares his experience with us, we offer alternative solutions and they will then give us their feedback,” says Evelyn. “This brings you closer to real-life working situations.”

Improve your skill set
Similarly for Farhaanah, studying with SMa Institute has also been an enjoyable experience. “I remember my taxation module which was very interesting because I could apply it when doing my personal taxes too,” she shares.

The shorter length of study is also something Farhaanah appreciates. “It’s definitely much quicker compared to other private institutions. I did some research on my own and believe that the courses offered in partnership with Murdoch University are well-recognised, which led me to enrol in the city campus,” she shares.

As a client service officer at a bank, Farhaanah wanted to enhance her skill set with an accounting degree. This paper qualification, accredited by CPA Australia, is issued by Murdoch University in partnership with SMa Institute.

Although she regularly deals with people in her current job, she hopes to venture into the accounting field in the future.

Fortunately, her social activities allow her to put to practice what she has learnt in her course. “In my free time I do volunteer as a treasurer in a Malay dance company. This is where I put the accounting skills I have learnt in school to good use,” Farhaanah enthuses.

Resources at your fingertips
Both Evelyn and Farhaanah reveal that although they are taking a distance-learning course, the gap is bridged by the professionalism and helpfulness of lecturers. In fact, the standard of the students is on par with their counterparts in Australia. Even though they are taking degrees in fields which are relatively new to the both of them, the lecturers make them feel right at ease.

“The lecturers are very quick to reply, even if we email them late at night. I like their enthusiasm in teaching students,” says Evelyn.

Farhaanah concurs, “The lecturers are very helpful and are always prepared for lessons. They are very dedicated in answering all our questions. There are also open discussions which helps us have a deeper understanding of the module.”

Apart from lessons, Evelyn and Farhaanah also make use of the school’s facilities such as the library resources and computer labs. Particularly for Evelyn’s psychology course which requires an extensive range of scientific journal readings, having access to the Edith Cowan University online library opens the doors to a myriad of reading opportunities. The campuses’ close proximity to the national and public libraries also meant there’s no shortage of books and reference materials.

It does not just stop there. With more than 2,600 links to other companies from MNCs to SMEs via the parent company, SMa Institute students and graduands enjoy career advancement opportunities through networking and other industry linking programmes .

Advice for aspiring students
For those wishing to pursue a degree with SMa Institute, Farhaanah gives a nugget of wisdom. “Time management and organizational skills is crucial.”

Evelyn agrees, “You really need to be disciplined in managing both your work and studies. The course will be demanding with its assignments, meaning you will have to sacrifice some of your personal time.”

Ultimately, graduating with certifications from renowned overseas universities will definitely allow you to see your hard work come into fruition.

By Joyce Lin

Contributed by JobsCentral Pte Ltd