A time of transition

Sixth Form should be about the transition from GCSEs to university, and at Epsom College in Malaysia, we encourage students to embrace all the challenges this transition brings.

At Epsom College in Malaysia, we know that there are key periods in students’ lives that require extra support. One of these times is Sixth Form, a time of transition and change, when students are preparing to make one of the biggest moves in their lives so far: from school to university. The difference in environment between secondary and tertiary education cannot be overstated, and students who are unprepared for the change can find university overwhelming and stressful. Our role is to equip students with the skills they need to thrive independently at university.

A space of their own

At Epsom College in Malaysia, we’ve created a space purely for the Sixth Form, The Grayling Centre.
There are three key sections: the study area, the social area and the tutorial rooms. Here the Sixth Form students can spend time studying, revising, discussing and relaxing in between classes, in an environment that is structured but also respects their growing autonomy. The tutorial rooms in particular have been designed to be much more like the study spaces that are found at universities. The rooms are used by students and staff alike for a variety of purposes, whether to practise public speaking, work on group projects, engage in seminars or have meetings.

What goes on outside the buildings of the school is equally important, and students are encouraged to involve themselves in a wide range of active cross-curricular activities. Students stay healthy by participating in sports and develop leadership, resilience, determination, problem-solving and teamwork qualities. This can also be seen through the International Award, for which a number of our Sixth Form students completed their Gold Award during their time at ECiM.

Developing independence

At university, students will be expected to hold their own in group discussions and presentations; we require the same, as we want students to engage fully with the material and then discuss and debate this with both teachers and their peers. Many students find this difficult, so to complement teachers’ efforts to encourage students to both ask and answer questions in class, we offer a number of cross-curricular activities that can help students to develop these skills, such as the English Speaking Board, Debating, Model United Nations, and TED Ed Club to name a few.

A key part of the transition from GCSEs to A Levels is about embracing a holistic education and looking beyond the curriculum, so that students can engage both with their subject material in class, and other material that might be of interest. This is something we inculcate across the whole of Epsom College in Malaysia. The Sixth Form, for example, offers the Horizons programme, which allows students to challenge themselves intellectually outside of their usual A Level subjects. One way in which they can do this is through a series of academic lectures, presented to them by visiting academics and our own teachers. Some students themselves have also presented to their peers. These lectures, called Rubber Head Talks, have ranged from the experiences in the Falklands War, to Hampton Court Palace, to music in computer games, to the economics of supermarket shelves, to the Rwandan genocide, to the literature of Joseph Conrad.

One of the benefits of boarding school is that the students can gather again in the evenings (or early mornings for some live events). At Beanbag Events, students watch documentaries, films or unfolding live events in a more relaxed setting and then discuss elements of what they have watched. Some Beanbag events in the last eighteen months have included Hidden Figures, the Brexit election result, the US election result, Icarus, Exit Through the Gift Shop and the Act of Killing.

Valuable insights

Each September, three subject mentors join us from British universities for a few weeks. These students, both undergraduates and postgraduates, support ECiM students in both their studies and their university applications. The interns’ input into students’ university applications is just one small part of the process. Over 100 universities visit ECiM over the course of a year, including 50 universities who attend our annual University Fair in October. These visits give students an insight into both courses and universities, whether the focus of the talk is something that they have considered before or not. Through Bridge-U, students are able to investigate both universities and courses, using filters that help them to input any preferences that they might have. Combined with the university visits and assistance from the Head of Higher Education, the Head of Sixth Form and other members of teaching staff, the students focus down, until they have decided on the destinations that they wish to apply for and in whatever country that is in.

During the year, workshops are offered on topics such as Debating, Oxbridge, Personal Statement writing, SAT v ACT test taking, US applications, Australian applications, Canadian applications and Visa applications. IELTS lessons are also offered, in order for students to maximise their potential in the language test that is required for many student visas.

On top of their A Levels, we expect the majority of A Level students to also complete the Extended Project Qualification on a topic of their choice. We believe that students who complete the EPQ are better prepared to take up their places at university and in their careers. The EPQ greatly supports applications to top universities with some institutions offering lower offers to those who achieve an A in their EPQ. The EPQ also helps students to deliver strong personal statements and interviews, with universities recognising how students’ passions for their subjects come through more naturally in their applications, whilst the EPQ also makes them better prepared for more research-based learning at university.

When students leave Epsom College in Malaysia as Old Epsomians, they will have gone through a rich, supportive programme that has equipped them with the skills they need for both independent study and independent living. Through their time in school, they learn how to engage with lessons, appreciate new viewpoints and develop their own opinions. Through their time as boarders, they learn how to live responsibly and independently. Through all the support that is offered to them during their time in the Sixth Form, they develop into undergraduate students who can subsequently thrive on the challenges that they are faced with in Higher Education. We wish them all the best in their future.