Does Our Education System Prepare Students Adequately For College?

college readiness
The EMPOWER Initiative exists to address the lack of college readiness. Simply because education system are far from preparing students for college.
The EMPOWER Initiative exists to address the lack of “college readiness” — the notion that secondary school/high school students are ill-equipped to make the most of tertiary education. However, is this even a real problem? That’s an excellent question that we, of all people, are deeply interested in — after all, we don’t want to be cracking our heads and spending time and energy working on a nonexistent problem.


Before launching the initiative in June 2021, The EMPOWER Initiative sent out a survey to understand Malaysian student college readiness. The EMPOWER Initiative has accumulated responses from students of diverse backgrounds thus far, including those from international schools, public schools, and even those who were homeschooled. While the number of reactions remains on the low side to qualify as a representative sample, there are some interesting findings that we want to share in this article.

Secondary school students rarely take notes in class

The EMPOWER Initiative Research Findings
(Image : The EMPOWER Initiative)
More than 63% of respondents currently studying in college/university report taking notes regularly in class, while all of our secondary school/high school respondents report taking notes in class “sometimes” or “never.”

Secondary school students do not think research skills are very important to becoming a better student.

The EMPOWER Initiative Research Findings 2
In our survey, 77% of college and university students cite “research skills” as “very important” to becoming a better student, while only 13% of secondary school students say the same.

Secondary school students do not think having a good note-taking system is very important to becoming a better student.

The EMPOWER Initiative Research Findings 3
When asked about how important “having a good note-taking system” is to be a better student, 25% of secondary students said it was “essential,” compared to 59% of college and university students.


While qualitative explanations for these findings have yet to be validated, we hypothesize that a root cause may be different ways of acquiring information and knowledge between tertiary and secondary education levels. In secondary schools, classes tend to be teacher-led, and it can lead to the phenomenon where students are spoon-fed information knowledge to help them get that ace in the exams. On the other hand, the initiative of learning falls on the students in the college and university. As such, note-taking and research skills start becoming more important, and eventually, mastery of these best practices for learning sets apart the best college students from the ordinary.
These are just preliminary findings from our ongoing research on Malaysian student college readiness! Help us improve the precision of our study by taking 5 minutes of your time to head over to and fill out the survey. Feeling extra kind today? Share the link with your friends to take the survey, as the more respondents we get, the better we can understand college readiness on the ground! 
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 The EMPOWER Initiative is a youth-led non-profit initiative that aspires to be a one-stop platform for students looking to acquire essential skills for college/university. It is currently operating on Discord as a peer-to-peer mentorship and knowledge sharing platform, where senior students share their expertise in weekly EMPOWERment sessions. To date, the initiative has launched sessions on topics such as Academic Essay Writing, Personal Organisation, and Effective Oral Presentation.
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