Straight As dilemma - Relatives' inquiry

Study. Study. Study.

SPM and STPM results are out. Of course I sat for both exams, including UPSR and PMR many moons ago but while I don't remember my results, I do remember my relatives' fret and reaction as to what I got, straight As or not. 

I did not get straight As in UPSR and my mother called me an imbecile for that. Of course I cried my eyes out. Relatives weren't particularly impressed either and I felt kinda worthless.

There is one cousin brother of mine who is of the same age of me. We never talked as kids, as far as I can remember, and teens and were always trying to outdo each other in governmental exams. As luck would have it we were always getting the same results as each other which left us even more resentful of each other. Though, it was undeclared enmity and it was mainly due to us being of different gender. If he was a girl, I would sure as hell talk and hang out with him! Duh!

Okay, for me, rather than having cold feet of what my exam results would turn up, as in how many As I'll churn up, I was having cold feet on what to say to relatives who'd keep the house phone engaged for hours on end. Every time exam results were out, I'd warm the couch beside the house phone, answering a tidal wave of calls, curious or should I say inquisitorial relatives at the other end about every detail regarding my exam results. 

It was a chore. My relatives in the village were ever disdainful of me when I was a child and teen and were always giving me below the belt treatment. My bookish ways were subjected to florid tirades and my mom had a penchant for scolding me right in front of my aunts, uncles and cousins. I survived all that without post trauma but let me assert that words hurt a lot more and stay with you longer than hits and blows.

It was not that I screwed up badly, I did quite well but never got straight As. I was a mostly As student who knew her strengths and concentrated on her strengths and made them her forte. The thing I couldn't stand was the constant comparison my aunts and uncles made with me and their kids, my cousins. At my underachieving cousins, their parents would be like, "Look at Hema, she can do so well. Why can't you be like her?" And, for my aunts whose kids got straight As, it was an opportunity for them to blow their trumpet and my mom would look at me as though I've come home pregnant with a loafer's baby. 

Comparing is very bad. Can you compare an apple with an orange? Nope. That's how kids are. I was a soursop and my cousin brother I mentioned above was a sourplum. I was good in languages, history, geography and science, particularly biology. He was good at math and numbers. Our results, mirrored our subjects of mettle. That was it. I was not stupid for not getting straight As and he was not stupid for scoring a B in Malay language. 

Anyway, my cousin bro settled the scores. He called me up after we got our SPM results and conceded defeat to me as I scored one A extra than him. That was when it struck me that than one extra A is not a big deal. It doesn't account for all my worth and intellect. It's just a grade. I also learned that one As' graph ranking at present is not above reproach, like it used to be until Mahathir took over as education minister and subsequently compromised the standard of Malaysian education.

Nowadays, everyone is obsessed about quantity rather than quality. The latest dilemma is that the numbers of students scoring all As in SPM has dropped.

Students are told to memorise and then regurgitate what they memorised on the exam paper and as a result of such mindless parroting, we have students scoring 17 As in SPM who can't put together a sentence in English and are kicked out from the most unknown universities in UK, let alone Harvard or Cambridge.

Those days, students scoring 1 A or 2 As in MC are considered as high achievers. It was very, very difficult to get all As back then and students studied to learn, not just pass exams in an impressive way. Quality was there.

This is not to slight students who got straight As. This is just to say studying is not equal to learning. Don't study to get straight As. Study to learn new things. Study to expand your knowledge. It's alright if you don't get straight As. Your talent lies elsewhere.

If you judge a fish's capability by its ability to climb trees, then it will live its whole life thinking it's stupid. It is also sad that the Malaysian education system does just that compounded by this rabid covet of straight A +. This phenomena is also exacerbated by nosy relatives who have an OCD to call and milk post exam result blood out of kids who are already disillusioned with the real meaning of education.

Education is not proof of intelligence. Education only enhances intelligence. My grandma never took shade in a school building and she is one of the most smart and competent women I know. She had great real estate acumen and had bought swaths of agricultural land and planted rubber trees on them. It's an incredible feat for a woman in those days. Just imagine if my grandmother was educated. She would be like Margaret Thatcher, I assure you.

Okay, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying one should take education lightly. Education is the best investment you can ever make. No one can take it from you - it stays with you for life. But, you need not know everything. Knowing enough on what will make you augment your life quality is sufficient. Neil deGrasse Tyson need not know how to make foie gra creme brulee. A pastry chef needs to know that but need not know about astrophysics, Tyson needs to know the latter. But, Tyson can learn how to make creme brulee and a pastry chef can learn about astrophysics because one should never stop learning. Homo sapiens is the only species that has a prolonged childhood and lifelong learning and it's shaped by millions of years of evolution.

You may say university dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made it big but you can count such dropouts having such meteoric rise in life by the digits on your hands. So, education is crucial and mind you, no knowledge is inferior. Everyone knows something you don't know.

Not wanting to succumb to this post exam result relatives keypochi syndrome, I never asked what my nephews and nieces got in UPSR, PMR and SPM. This year, my nephew got his SPM result and I forbade my mom from calling him to ask what he got. This morning, when I logged into Facebook, I saw a picture of him in graduate robe and I left a message congratulating him. It's not that I don't care about how my nieces and nephews are doing in education, I'm just giving them some space to breathe free, something I was denied.

I did not get straight As and guess what? I turned out not bad! Stop chasing straight As as though your very lives depend on it. Life is much bigger than straight As. And, relatives who weren't there for you while you slogged like nobody's business have no right to jump out of the blue and judge you and your exam results!

No comments:

Post a Comment