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Friday, April 17, 2009

Good and bad in “chasing A’s” in SPM

written by LEE ZHI WEI and im just paste it here!

I was delighted when theCICAK asked me to express my opinion about students “chasing A’s” and taking more and more subjects for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exam (SPM), which was recently highlighted in the newspapers. It was very refreshing because for once, since I received my SPM results, I was asked something other than “study tips,” which is highly overrated anyway.

So, should students be taking more than the 10 core subjects? If the decision is made based on personal choice, I cannot see why students should not.

The more appropriate question is not whether students should be doing so, but why they are doing so. This would help answer the former question.

There are two factors that have caused this academic phenomenon.

The first factor paints a bleak picture of the modern-day Malaysian society. Many students, parents and teachers consider a 10 straight 1A’s student a little inferior to a student who scores 11 or more straight 1A’s. Thus, this idea has evolved into a new ideal of academic excellence in Malaysia, one that does not include the 10 1A’s student.

This is dangerous because some students never wanted to pursue 10 subjects. They were pressured into doing so. Under such circumstances, can we really expect students to take a non-conformist stand and face the possibility of disappointing their parents and educators?

It is even worse when students themselves want to take more subjects purely for the sake of having a longer string of A’s. For example, a significant number of science-stream students taking the Basic Science subject. This is completely pointless as science-stream students already learn the basics, and more, in biology, chemistry and physics. This is a rather pathetic attempt to add one more 1A to the SPM results slip.

But there’s a second factor that influences students to take on more subjects for SPM. And it’s positive.

Perhaps our generation is more confident and versatile. Students are inspired by their predecessors who have scored straight 1A’s on a crazy load of subjects. This shows that it’s not impossible.

I personally encourage this sort of motivation, as it will challenge the next batch of students to reach their intellectual potential. And it makes studying more holistic and interesting.

In addition, it’s no crime for students to love the arts, economics, literature and French. If they want to pursue those subjects, we should let them. There is no reason for us to limit their capacity or confine their capabilities. If we prevent them from doing so, they might never achieve their full potential.

I shall not condemn those who aim for straight 1A’s and achieve it. Some might think that this is a kiasu or academics-oriented attitude, but I see those perceptions as excuses for those who prefer to remain mediocre when they have what it takes to be better. If we truly want to be excellent, then we have to take up the challenge. And if we do extremely well, then that’s terrific.

But there is no need to glorify top scorers. All we did was do well for SPM. We should not be national idols. I agree with the education ministry’s decision not to name the top student.

Having said all that, no matter how many (or few) 1A’s we get for SPM, we must realize that SPM is just an examination. At the end of the day, a person’s true worth can never be tested and evaluated on paper, but in the many trials and tribulations life has to offer.

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