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Guess which Msian state has the vainest kids? 7 surprising results from our Schoolbag survey!

U Mobile booKu GIF_23 Feb 2017

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Two months ago, we worked with U Mobile to ask Malaysian students what was in their schoolbags. Tying in with their launch of  booKu, a U Mobile exclusive app that lets you buy books through your mobile phone, the inaugural Malaysian SchoolBag Survey 2017 wanted to find out more about what Malaysian students brought to school now, and what they did once they were there.

And honestly, we were overwhelmed by the response. 2157 students (and 41 parents) signed up for our lengthy 30-question survey, telling us everything from the contents of their bag to how they take notes in class. And the findings were honestly fascinating. But first…

What kinda students signed up?

Here are some of the demographic stats before we begin.

  • 51% were still in secondary school (wah not enough homework ka?), 35.8% Uni, 10.2% newly graduated, and about 2% primary school students or parents taking the test on their behalf
  • We had the most respondents from Selangor (35.9%), followed by KL (19.4%), Penang (8.4%), Sarawak (6.4%), 1-4% from other states, and one sesat fler from Singapore.
  • 47.9% of our respondents speak English as a primary language, with 25.3% preferring BM, 21.7% Chinese, and 2.6% Tamil.
  • We had mostly regular Sekolah Kebangsaan kids (38.6%), followed by local private college students (31.5%), local uni students (15%), SJK kids (8.4%) and a few people from overseas unis.

Now that you know the kinda kids we were talking to, let’s find out all the weird stuff about them 🙂

1. WAH… 3% of lelaki students carry… handbags?

image of a man bag being sold on

image of a man bag being sold on

Wow… so 19 of our male respondents actually selected handbags as their school bag of choice. This made us curious enough to Google the definition of a man-bag. And here’s what we found…

“A bag with one strap worn by metrosexual or homosexual males. Especiclly prevalent in cities and on college campuses.” –

Oh. Okla… seems legit – since it does seem to be popular in school. Even with women tho, a handbag in college isn’t all that popular, with only 6.6% of Malaysian female students choosing to bring one to school. Surprisingly, even less popular are roller bags, with less than 1% of students using them to lighten their load – and they’re mostly primary school kids.

The most popular type of bag is still the trusty old backpack, with 86% of Malaysian students choosing that as their main schoolbag. Second is the trusty shoulder sling, which makes up 23% for males and 29.7% for females.

Sad ultraman is sad. Image via

Sad ultraman is sad. Image via

Oh and for the record, Ultraman no longer in fashion la. 79.9% of all kids prefer bags with simple colours and designs vs expensive looking ones (12%), colourful ones(5%), or sadly, their favourite characters (3.2%).


2. English-speaking students are the most disorganised, and they don’t like Windows

chak messy desk

This is actually CILISOS editor’s desk

One of the questions we asked was how their bags were organised, with answers ranging from very organised to extremely unorganised – and while 82% of students consider themselves very or somewhat organised, it is the differences in character of organised and disorganised students that’s REALLY interesting.

  • They’re less likely to take notes, take years to finish a book and more likely to use a laptop in class
  • They like standing out – three times more likely to want cartoon characters on their bags, and they’re less likely to use Windows (Usually Mac or Linux)
  • They’re also 2.5 times more likely to be smokers and 1.5 times more likely to be carrying a hamsap magazine


3. Sarawak students are the vainest

Image from

Image from

Yep… a full 12% of Sarawakian students bring makeup to class, vs the nationwide average of 7%. Elsewhere, Malacca has the least vain students, with only 1 out of the 40 students polled admitting to bringing makeup to class.

Sarawakian students are also surprisingly some of the most well equipped – together with KL, Johor and Selangor students, with 25-26% of them bringing laptops to class vs only 12% of poor Perak students and 15% of Penang students (although Penangites do make up for this with one of the highest incidences of mobile phones in class).


4. And guess which state the richest students come from?


taken from the now defunct RKOM instagram account

Surprisingly, KL students do not get the most allowance. That honour belongs to Selangor brats, 53% of whom get more than RM30 a week in allowance, with a whopping 12.1% getting more than RM100 a week (vs only 8.8% of KL-lites). 14.3% of Selangor students also drive to school in their own cars, vs only 8-9% from Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Sarawak

Malaysia’s first UN rep brought a keris to the meeting. What was he trying to prove?!

Them vainpot Sarawakians (joking joking laaaa) actually get by with very little. 22% of Sarawak-based students get less than RM10 a week (!), and a total of 58% receive less than RM30 a week (75% of which are in secondary school). However, very few of them take public transport to school, probably cos the infrastructure there isn’t quite up to par yet 🙁


5. OMG kids still use pencilboxes!

Sadly, these aren't very popular anymore. Yes millenial person, this is what we used to use in the 90s. Image via

Sadly, these aren’t very popular anymore. Yes millennial person, this was the coolest pencilbox ever in the 1990s. Image via (yes, it’s a throwback article. sigh)

Honestly, with the advent of mobile phones, tablets and laptops, we were somehow comforted by the fact that the trusty pencilbox is still alive and well. An overwhelming 86.8% of Malaysian students across all levels still carry pencilboxes, and most of them still carry pens and pencils too (pens lead by about 10% more). In fact, only 22% of them actually bring their laptops to work.

Another common item is the trusty water bottle, with 90.6% of students bringing water to class. 44.3% of them bring the standard 1L bottle while another 30% that get by with just 500ml. A few (4.2%) camels actually bring 2 litres or more, with a substantial amount of them coming from Malacca. Must be hot there 😉


6. Unsurprisingly, girls are more diligent note takers

TO GO WITH: Malaysia-education-exam-schools,FOCUS BY M.Jegathesan In a photo taken on September 30, 2014, Dharmishta Ramachandran (C), a Malaysian Hindu ethnic Indian, writing notes before attending the second Primary School Evaluation Test at a school in Kuala Lumpur, after initial results were invalidated following the discovery that questions were leaked online. Bowing before a Hindu altar, Dharmishta Ramachandran prayed for strength and wisdom before taking high-stakes Malaysian school exams that have huge bearing on her future. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

Image via The Malay Mail Online

Yep. This is pretty much what we remember from school days too. It’s confirmed. Girls take more notes than guys (which probably explains why their writing is so much nicer also). 70% of Malaysian female students take notepads to school versus only 51% of boys.

Makes sense too. Boys are alot cockier, with 20% of them trusting that they’ll “remember things I hear – DUH” instead of taking notes, versus only 11% of girls.

But notebooks aren’t the only tool girls are using. Twice as many girls (8.8% of them) use phone cameras to take pictures of the board to remember what was taught, and 2.2% of them even record full audio of their classes to go back and hafal.


7. Guess which state’s students read the most religious books?

religious books Schoolbeg survey

Of course, we couldn’t NOT talk about books, considering our sponsor, U Mobile’s bookU offers a great way to download and read them 🙂 And guess what… the answer is another surprise from our friends in… Sarawak. They ranked religious books significantly higher than other states, including even Johor, Perlis, Kelantan and Kedah (although the last three had very few participants in this survey). Also surprising was that Malacca had the lowest incidence of students reading religious books.

Overall tho, trends for books were very similar across all states, schools and surprisingly even gender.

  • Comics, Humour and Action/Adventure won in terms of general preference for Malaysian students, and it doesn’t change much from primary to tertiary education(!)
  • Most Malaysian students are comfy reading books between 100-300 pages, although females generally had a preference for longer books
  • Surprisingly, it also holds true for ‘naughty’ books. Primary till tertiary, the same percentages of students are fans.
  • 54% of both male and female students admitted to having read a naughty book, although expectedly males had a strong preference for “books with pictures”
  • Male students had a slight preference for instructional books, whereas female students preferred romance
  • Overseas uni students prefer biographies more, and romance less
  • While 80% of Malaysians students still buy and read real books, 50.5% are already reading online


So it seems in some ways at least, Malaysian schoolbags are a-changin

While a few points reinforced that some things about schoolbags were still similar, there were lots of surprises in this survey. The majority of students (61.2%) carried less than 5 books in their bags, and a growing number have substituted books for laptops and phones, and using these devices to make learning a lot lighter (at least weight-wise) than before.

Some of the books available for free with your 30-day trial of U Mobile's bookU app

Some of the books available for free with your 30-day trial of U Mobile’s bookU app

42% of students would also prefer electronic versions of their syllabus, either in the form of slides or digital handouts – so it’s clear that even though there’s nothing quite like a physical book, you can’t quite bring a library with you in your schoolbag. With 56.6% of all students not borrowing books from libraries anymore, it’s a good thing that accessing 65,000 titles including text books AND can now be as simple as downloading an app on your phone.

Maybe then, you camels will have enough room for your 2L water bottle 😉


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