Students engage with employers at FINCO Careers InSight career fairs

Socioeconomic factors cited as key reason for not pursuing further education.

Kuala Lumpur, 17 July 2023: The Financial Industry Collective Outreach (FINCO), which works closely with Ministry of Education Malaysia to support school counsellors in preparing students for life after school, recently conducted a survey amongst upper secondary school students across Malaysia to gain more insights into what influences their next steps after completing their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations. The survey targeted Form 4 and Form 5 students, and received 1,066 responses, 78.7% of which were students from B40 income households.

FINCO’s report, ‘From Classroom to Career: Students’ Post-SPM Decision Making’, notes that students who were planning to work rather than continue their studies after SPM chose to do so primarily due to socioeconomic factors, with 39.5% of them citing financial constraints as the main issue and a further 14.8% citing family obligations. Not surprisingly, 28.4% of respondents pointed to poor academic performance as the reason for not furthering their education; and males were more likely than their female counterparts to head straight into the workforce. Whilst poor academic performance is a complex issue, compounded by socioeconomic status, some of the perceived barriers to accessing education may be overcome if students are able to unpack the information needed to access training and educational opportunities.

However, the report also found that 88.7% of the students surveyed display low abilities in locating and processing relevant education and career information. While they may have basic ideas about their preferred subject areas and career industries, they are uncertain of entry requirements and funding options to further their studies, as well as necessary skills for those who opt to enter the workforce immediately.

The positive news is that a significant number of students who are inclined to further their studies are interested in pursuing skills-based diploma and certification courses. If this interest can be nurtured and students guided towards suitable Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses, these students would be well placed to meet Malaysia’s demand for skilled workers.

“Aside from offering scholarships and bursaries, the financial industry plays an important role in supporting FINCO’s efforts to empower students from underprivileged communities. In addition to funding FINCO’s programmes, CEO volunteers offer tailored guidance and inspire students to aim for the stars while other financial industry volunteers help students with career planning and skills development. Ultimately, the hope is for all Malaysian students, regardless of their background, to have the opportunity to realise their dreams and achieve greater financial inclusion,” said FINCO Chairman, Tan Sri Azman Hashim.

According to the Ministry of Education’s eProfil Kerjaya Murid (ePKM), 180,680 or 48.74% of SPM students from the 2021 session did not continue their studies — a significant increase compared to 35.16% (115,939 students) from the previous year. The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 also highlights the disparity in higher education access amongst different income groups, stating that students from the B40 group face greater challenges in accessing and furthering their studies. The findings from the FINCO survey correspond to this data and provide additional insights into the thinking behind the current batch of upper secondary students’ plans and aspirations, enabling us to better support students’ long-term decision making.

“We meet some very dedicated school counsellors and teachers in our work with schools and want to do our best to support them in ensuring that young people have the necessary tools to make more informed decisions and secure decent work,” said FINCO CEO, Clare Walker.

“The data from this survey enables us to make evidence-based decisions when enhancing our programmes, so we can more accurately address gaps in knowledge and guide students towards fulfilling careers. We look forward to more collaboration with others who share the same goals,” she added.

a room full of teachers sitting in rows and looking to the front

School counsellors enhance their ability to deliver impactful career fairs under FINCO's Careers InSight programme.

FINCO, a collaborative initiative pioneered by the financial industry in Malaysia with the guidance of Bank Negara Malaysia, is committed to supporting young people as they navigate life after SPM.

In 2022 alone, FINCO delivered Aspire Workshops and Sembang Aspirasi talks to more than 18,000 students in over 220 schools, helping them understand potential career pathways as well as the skills and qualifications valued by employers. Meanwhile, secondary school counsellors from over 290 schools participated in FINCO’s Careers InSight Career Fairs (CICF) initiative, equipping themselves with skills and knowledge to plan and deliver impactful career fairs for over 14,000 students.

The full report can be found at