A while ago I received an email from a frantic school-leaver (posted here with her permission):
[I] scored 10a’s in spm [science stream] but didn’t not get scolarship to further my studies in medicine….i was so frustated,nearly killed myself fot 2 times and mourning for a year…since i got no money,i enrolled in local matriculation programme to live like normal people.i am so confused.i’m not sure what are my talents bcoz i’ve spent my teenage life for studying…i’m kind of interested in journalism or broadcasting i guess but don’t know what to do…it’s hard to afford the tuition fees in private colleges/university fot that courses…i don’t want to end up being like my sister-24 yrs,have chemistry degree in um and jobless….please help me coz no one does!
This is exactly what appalls me so much about the education system we have here. She goes into mourning over a scholarship. She attempts suicide TWICE over a scholarship. She got straight As, which apparently is supposed to get you the grand successes in life, but it nearly cost her life instead.
And the best part? She’s stressing out over a scholarship for a course she’s not sure she’s interested in.
Sad thing is, she’s not the only one. Just recently, when the SPM results were announced, there was a report on a student who attempted suicide at school because she failed her paper. (Does anyone have an update on her? Last we know, she was in the hospital; is she OK?) So many of my peers at my school were going through anxiety and hysteria over the exams. And what about the potential thousands of cases out there that go unheard?
No one had given these students their various options in life. What to do after school. What to do if you get – or don’t get – a scholarship. What to do with your grades. What to do when your plans don’t go quite what you expected. How to pursue your dreams. How to cope with life after SPM. No one had taught them that. And because of that, they suffer.
I suggested a course on post-school life to my teachers when I was in secondary school. I got laughed at. Yet that course would have turned out to be the most important one…more important than “How To Answer Such-and-Such A Paper”. It deals with the reality; life is not like school, your grades aren’t necessarily a reflection of your future, there are more variables in life than just your As or Bs or Zs, and you need to create your own destiny.
Notice how she applied for a scholarship in medicine, but she’s not even sure if that’s her interest? That she has an interest in journalism, but no one is nurturing that, or showing her where to go? Why is she doing medicine – because it’s expected of her? I would personally have a doctor that was actually interested in his/her path, because he/she gets the job done well. Why subject yourself to so much stress if it’s not something you’re interested in? It’ll only make you suffer, and your work suffers too because your heart is not in it.
Emails and stories like these are a core reason why the education system needs to break away from its obsession with perfect scores and go towards a more holistic, well-rounded, democratic, open system that really prepares students for the randomness that is life, and encourages them to pursue what they really desire.
Right now there are efforts from the Education Ministry to lessen exams and make it more well-rounded, which I applaud; however, they can’t be the only one making changes. The media needs to spend more time profiling students that are outside the norm, and not just the yearly crop of “top students”. Schools need to make a better effort to educate, truly educate their students on the vast life outside of school. Companies need to look at their hiring practices and be open to people that get the job done well without being myopic and looking only at grades. The society at large needs to understand that we are all human, and should be considered on so many factors, not just grades.
In the meantime, if you have a friend or relative who (like my email correspondent) is grieving over results, stressing over school, or is near-suicidal, PLEASE GET HELP. Depression is a serious condition and suicides do happen. If you feel something is not right, please contact The Befrienders at the following:
- Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (You can call them “Sam” or “Jo”)
- 24 Hour Hotline: 603-79568144/5
- Face-To-Face: Call up 603-79568144/5 to arrange an appointment
Please, people, see the humanity of everyone. Don’t get fixated on grades. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not worth killing yourself over.
edit: I should probably add that the girl who wrote to me earlier did indeed reply, and she was feeling better. She appreciated my advice and is now making an effort to find out what she really wants to do with her life. Great for her; now let’s see if we can inspire other youths in her position.