Education: Why not Canada?


One part of my job is to advise clients on how to save for their children’s education fund. There are many financial tools that one can use for this purpose.Among them are life insurance, unit trusts, savings accounts, fixed deposits etc.

The bottom line :

  1. How much will you need when your child is aged 18 ? (This will mainly be based on WHERE you want to send them for university and WHAT course they want to do)
  2. How much can you afford to save over the next 18 years for
    this purpose ?
    (This will of course depend on how deep your pocket is)

What parents must always remember is that TIME is a a very limited factor. Every human being is granted 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks per year. Not more, not less.

The sooner you start saving, the less your burden will be. The longer you wait to start, the more it will cost you.

I hope that this and all future articles on EDUCATION will in some way benefit all you parents out there.


I received my 1st formal education there (kindergarten to Grade 3) & they are very nice people. That was back in the mid 80’s but I don’t think much has changed since then – I mean the kind hospitality of Canadians.

Those 3 years that I spent there as a kid and in primary school has made a large impact on my life as a whole. I’m sure those who pursue their tertiary education there today, will be able to reap the many benefits, knowledge, experience & wonders that Canada has to offer.

The Star :

Why not Canada?

AHMAD TARMIZI: The co-op component gives students an edge.

Good courses, affordable fees and friendly people – Canada is an attractive study option.

TALK about studying overseas with the average Malaysian and chances are that the top countries named will be the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

However, some discerning students or parents scouting around for quality education at affordable rates have zeroed in an oft-overlooked option – Canada

Extending across much of North America, the world’s second largest country is home to some 33 million people and boasts some fine educational institutions.

No, they may not be household names in this corner of the world, but foreign students enrolled in schools spread across Canada’s10 provinces and three territories will tell you that they have good reasons to be where they are.

Many routes to Canada

Melissa Tan Su-chen decided to study in Canada because she wanted to go somewhere “less crowded”.

“All my friends were going to Australia and I felt there were too many people there,” says the third-year business administration student at Simon Fraser University (SFU), British Columbia.

Darrell (second from right) and her friends head for the ski resorts every winter.

“So I did the Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) at Sunway University College in Malaysia, and came here.”

For University of Toronto second-year chemical engineering student Angelina Tan, studying in Canada marked the culmination of a love affair dating back to a holiday when she was five.

“I liked Canada so much, I decided to study here.”

Ajay Gopinathan’s case is a little different. The 28-year-old computer engineering student at the University of Calgary had completed his first degree and master’s at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore when he went online to look for a university for his doctoral programme.

“I talked to this professor who was willing to take me, and the university offered me a teaching and research assistantship. That covered my expenses, so here I am,” he said.

Concordia University student Jasmine Lam (second from right) has made friends from all over the world.

Richly diverse

Every year, more than 150,000 students head for Canada to study, said Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN) director of policy and research Gardiner Wilson.

“That’s because Canada is a great place to be in. The quality of life is good, the population is multicultural, and the country has natural beauty.

“Students can get anything here, even instant noodles,” he adds.

From exploring the Pacific coastal mountains and traversing the sweeping prairie to gazing at sparkling urban skylines and revelling in the rugged beauty of the Atlantic, students will not lack things to do.

“The Rocky Mountains are only an hour away from Calgary,” says Ajay. “They are spectacular, like nothing I have seen.”

Adds Melissa: “There are so many races and cultures it’s impossible to feel out of place here.”

Angelina picking peaches at an orchard near Niagara Falls.

Its educational landscape is equally varied. Though a commonwealth country, Canada’s system of education resembles that of the United States. The provinces and territories are each responsible for all levels of education.

At the federal level, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) provides a forum for education ministers to discuss matters of common concern, explore ways to cooperate, share information and coordinate education activities internationally.

All public-funded universities belong to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

“Membership in the AUCC, coupled with the appropriate provincial legislation, is generally accepted in lieu of institutional accreditation,” said AUCC senior policy analyst Tom Tunney.

The pre-requisite to enter university is a high school diploma. In Malaysia, the equivalent is usually the Canadian Pre-University Programme or the CIMP but other qualifications are accepted.

“We welcome students from the South-East Asian region,” says Wilson, adding that there was a wide range of courses to choose from.

“From research-intensive universities to smaller ones, there is something for everyone.”

Carleton University students Woo Win Seng (left) and Natalie Gan put on their skates when the 7.8km Rideau Canal freezes in winter and becomes the longest skating rink in the world.

Good programmes

An indicator of the quality of an academic programme is recognition from those in the know.

“Very few people in Malaysia realise just how good Canadian programmes are,” says McGill University final-year engineering student Kuan Seng How, 23, from Kuala Lumpur.

“I’ve worked in industry here and when I say I’m from McGill, people here recognise that as of a certain quality.”

Undergrads in other Canadian universities also speak highly of the education they are getting.

“I was told that SFU has one of the best business programmes in North America; it has certainly lived up to its name,” notes Melissa.

Carleton University first-year financial economics student Natalie Gan says her lecturers are always accessible.

The Winterlude celebrations held in Ottawa every February sees the city transformed into icy splendour.

“We can see them any time after class. All we have to do is to make an appointment, and they will guide us. The teaching assistants will even help to proof-read our assignments.”

Comparative cost advantage

In Canada, higher education is still a bargain, even at the current exchange rate of RM3 to C$1. Fees vary, depending on the region, the institution, and the programme, but range from C$5,500 to C$20,000 (RM16,5000 to RM60,000) a year.

Living costs are also relative, but students generally need to factor in C$10,000 to C$12,000 (RM30,000 to RM36,000) for this purpose.

“I pay about C$14,000 (RM42,000) in tuition fees and C$12,000 (RM36,000) on living expenses,” says Seng How. “That’s about C$26,000 (RM78,000) annually.”

With the question of cost comes the issue of scholarships.

According to John Manning, senior policy adviser (international portfolio) in the Training, Colleges and Universities Ministry’s Post-secondary Education Division many universities offer financial aid to students, though more so at graduate rather than undergraduate level. (See sidebar.)

“Students should check with the respective universities or CECN for information about this,” he adds.

A check with the students shows that aid is indeed readily available, especially for top students.

Natalie was automatically given an entrance award of C$2,000 (RM6,000) by Carleton University.

“This award is given every semester and good for the duration of my entire programme, as long as I maintain my A-grade standing,” she says.

The University of Alberta offers entrance scholarships of up to C$20,000 (RM60,000) based on high school grades,

However, while scholarships are available, they should not be taken for granted, says CECN’s Wilson.

“It is better to come prepared with sufficient funding to avoid disruption to studies.”

Flexible system

While some universities practise rolling admission, most start in September, with application deadlines usually in January. The Canadian system also gives undergrads some leeway to combine courses and even transfer credits.

SFU’s third-year biochemistry student Sumaiya Islam, 20, says: “I was initially a political science student but I decided I wanted to study molecular biology, so in my second year, I spoke to my counsellors and made a change. My core subjects later became my electives.”

According to Wilson, students can even fast-track at universities adopting the trimester system and complete their degree within 30 months.

Work and study opportunities

An added attraction to studying in Canada is the off-campus work permit, an incentive offered to international students since April last year, which allows them to work up to a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time.

“This enables students to gain working experience and earn extra income,” says Manning.

To be eligible, students must have a valid student permit and be enrolled in a full-time programme for at least six months preceding the application. Students can also work full time during summer and Christmas breaks.

Some like University of Toronto’s Darrell Hai Nien Yong, 26, have paid for their studies partly through part-time jobs.

“I worked as a waitress,” said Darrell, who will be graduating with a master in chemical engineering this summer.

“They paid me C$8 (RM24) an hour. That covered my rental, health insurance and pocket money.”

Another initiative recently introduced allows international students to stay on and work for a year or two after graduating.

Most Canadian universities also offer a 12 to 17-week co-op education component, which is a paid work placement, in their programmes.

“The coop component gives students an edge as it’s Canadian working experience,” says education attaché to the Malaysian Students Department in Canada Ahmad Tarmizi Muhamud.

There are, he adds, about 50 government-sponsored students and another 250 registered, self-sponsored students studying in Canada.

“The universities have excellent facilities and research centres. It’s definitely an advantage for our students if they can work and learn from these centres.

Cold weather, warm people

International students from warmer climes may need to adjust to the weather though. Winters can be brutally cold, with temperatures dropping to -33°C.

University of Alberta first-year engineering student Ariff Shazwan Mohamad Nazri was once snowbound because the door of his house in Edmonton was frozen shut.

Seng How also find Canadian winters bleak. “But they do make me appreciate summer more,” he says.

However, if the winters are cold, the people are warm, and most universities make extra effort to help international students adjust to life in Canada.

McGill University, for instance, provides a pick-up service to welcome students at Montreal Airport.

“From our 6,256 international students last year, 23 were from Malaysia,” says its International Student Services manager Pauline L’Ecuyer.

“Our buddy programme, which has about 500 volunteers, matches new students with returning students to help them adjust.”

  • The writer’s trip to Canada was sponsored by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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    2 Responses to “Education: Why not Canada?”
    1. Jeremiah says:

      Please forward more details regarding the award for international students

    2. If you are looking to study for a degree online you should read this very informative blog

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