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IGCSE has gained more popularity than before. But some parents still feel ambiguous about what it really is. Why take IGCES? Is it actually good or bad to take IGCSE instead of SPM? What would be the difference? Is there any risk with taking this course? Can I get a job or go to a public university with IGCSE without SPM?

Not understanding what is IGCSE really makes it sound intimidating. But we will explain here.

What is IGCSE?

IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a secondary level education certification for students who are generally between 14 and 16 years old. It is equivalent to Malaysia’s SPM level.

IGCSE syllabus is compiled by CIE (Cambridge International Examination) while the SPM syllabus is compiled by Malaysia MOE (Ministry of Education).

IGCSE is well known internationally and their certificate is accepted and recognized by almost all English-speaking countries. Meanwhile, SPM is only recognized locally (in Malaysia).

Right now, more and more people feel comfortable taking IGCSE. After all, IGCSE is recognized almost at every place in the world! Especially if you have a plan to study or work abroad, want to keep your options open at an international level, or just to have an advantage with an internationally recognized certification, IGCSE is the best option!

Are the subjects of IGCSE and SPM the same? Namely History (Sejarah) and Malay Language.

The short answer is no.

Since the IGCSE syllabus is compiled by CIE (Cambridge International Examination), the courses are based on information from the UK and Western countries, especially subjects such as geography and history. As for mathematics and science, although the topic emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving, it is not necessarily more difficult than SPM. However, the actual course content of IGCSE is still set by individual schools. So, you will find that the course content and textbooks of different schools may be slightly different.

You can find the list of IGCSE subjects here: IGCSE official subjects

Also, in July 2021 IGCSE has officially introduced a new ‘First-Language-Malay(0696)‘ to their subjects list! First Language Malay is designed with Malaysian students in mind, as it is different from the ‘Foreign Malay Language’ subject that is designed only for foreigners. Malaysian government institutions recognize this certificate, but still the syllabus is not the same as SPM Bahasa Melayu.

What is the minimum subjects in IGCSE?

Most institutions require students to take up a minimum of five subjects, and maximum of fourteen subjects per intake. It is best that parents check with individual institutions regarding their minimum subjects.

Students can register for multiple intakes to take up more subjects as well. For instance, instead of taking ten subjects in one intake, the student can register for two intakes, and take five subjects each intake.  

Can I apply for Public University with IGCSE?

The short answer would be, no. Public Universities in Malaysia only accept SPM, STMP, or MOE’s matriculation certificate with MUET qualification for entry into Year 1 Bachelor’s Degree.

After all, if going to Public University is not in your plan, then there is absolutely no need to worry!

Besides that, you can always apply for a private university. Many other institutions accept IGCSE qualifications. After all, there are more private universities than there are public ones.

Is it difficult to get a job in Malaysia with IGCSE?

Simply put, IGCSE will not limit your career. In fact, students take IGCSE to broaden their opportunity at international level!

Unless you plan to get placement in government jobs or public universities (such as University Malaya), then two compulsory subjects in Malaysia are Bahasa Melayu and Sejarah (History). It is compulsory to get a minimum credit (grade-C) on Bahasa Melayu and a pass on Sejarah to be considered officially graduated from SPM and participate in certain government career or public universities.

After all, if landing a government career is not in your plan, then there is absolutely no need to worry!

You can also apply for the compulsory subject of SPM: Bahasa Melayu and Sejarah. For details, you can ask the county education bureau (Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah, PPD) or the state education bureau (Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri, JPN).

When is IGCSE intake?

In Malaysia there are two intakes every year; May/June intake and October/November. Each intake takes two years to complete.

How to apply for IGCSE?

Many private schools in Malaysia offer IGCSE courses, and parents can send their children to schools to receive a complete British education. However, the quality of teaching in each private school is not the same, so you must do your research, prepare well in advance and choose the right school.

If parents do not want to send their children to school, parents can also choose to take the self-examination, but they still need to pass the Cambridge certification before they can take the exam.

Do I need to be strong in English to study IGCSE?  

The medium of instruction for IGCSE is in English, so it’s normal to expect that your child’s English should not be too weak when considering this course. If your child’s English fundamental is not strong enough, it is best to first improve your child’s English literacy until the level of standard 4, 5, and 6. For instance, signing up your child classes in English centers specifically to build up English power. However, keep in mind that the quality of the teacher is more important than the price or popularity of the center itself. Expensive ones do not always imply they have quality teachers, and cheap ones are not necessarily bad. Finding a teacher who can inspire a child’s interest in learning is more important than anything else.

One of our fellow followers shared that English is important for IGCSE. But in IGCSE, even for the language subjects, the syllabus focuses on students’ general knowledge and ability to form and defend their opinions. Therefore, it is more important to be well-read in general knowledge, culture, news, and current affairs of the world.

If I changed my mind halfway through IGCSE, can I still transfer to a government secondary school to continue my studies?

Generally speaking, students studying in private schools can still be transferred back to government schools (primary or secondary), provided that they have gone to the Ministry of Education to complete the withdrawal procedures when transferring schools. It is best to go to the school to understand the required procedures and processes.

Will IGCSE tuition fees be expensive?

Compared with SPM, the tuition of IGCSE is of course much more expensive. This is because SPM is the government education system, while IGCSE . Most parents still choose to send their children to international schools and private schools, so the actual cost depends on the school the parents choose. However, I still want to remind everyone that the quality of private schools varies from good to bad. Parents must be careful and be prepared to avoid wasted money, and they must also be accompanied by their children’s golden school hours.

What is the difference in learning style of IGCSE and SPM?

When it comes to teaching methods, IGCSE adopts a more open and relaxed approach to teaching, focusing heavily on general knowledge. It will not be cramming-style, memorizing, and a tight approach to teaching like the SPM counterpart.

In a poll done before this, our followers had shared their opinion to compare their experience between SPM and IGCSE. Some had stated that IGCSE is easier to pass, but much more difficult to get an A.

To sum it all up,  there is no best education system, only a suitable education system for your needs.