Mourning Over Loss Of Scholarships: Do We Want To Die For As?

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:

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.

9 Responses

  1. Yes, it is silly to think of suicide when she didn’t get the scholarship. What’s next? She’ll cut her wrist when she couldn’t get the job/university/bf/gf she had wanted so badly?

    I have this feeling she didn’t get the scholarship in the first place because she’s not well adjusted. Come on, would you give a scholarship to someone who will think of committing suicide over a matter like this?

  2. No need to be harsh…it was quite brave of her to open up to me (someone she only knew from a newspaper article) like this. She did write back feeling a lot better and with a new resolve, which is good.

    The scary thing is that SO MANY PEOPLE feel this way due to intense pressure to “succeed”, and very few actually get real help. And when they do seek out help, they get judged instead.

  3. maybe that person should try applying for an asean scholarship.

  4. Toru: It’s not so much the scholarship that’s the problem. It’s the attitude and belief that if one doesn’t get a scholarship, or perfect grades, their life is over.

    Thankfully the girl who wrote to me feels a lot better now.

  5. Good to hear about the news that she’s better. I’m going to link to this article, kay dear?

  6. […] People losing their obsession with grades and degrees – this obsession is starting to get really, really scary. People are in despair and depression, feeling lost and lonely, even nearly killing themselves – mainly because they feel they haven’t fulfilled society’s expectations of getting straight As and entering a prestigious university on a full scholarship. This is dangerous. […]

  7. Well, as a father of 2 teens children, I must say this spm leaver need a listening ear to hear her out, and to guide her about life. I had always emphasised to my kids, while I expect to do their best in academies(but let the results take care of themselves), I want to see them enjoy their children and teenage. I told them that their successes must be measured according to their level of happiness, their dreams and the processes of attaining them, the supports given them by dad and mum emotionally, mentally and financially too, as well as academies. Sounds daunting ye, but because of this they enjoy their lives, doing things other than academies according to their healthy interests and healthy pleasures but still score full A’s. Mind u, they are not supersmart. They also play computer games like crazy but daddy regulate them so that there are funs but not obsession. Don’t be so focussed on paper grades. Take these papers with philophical perspective that they are NOTHING but preparatory; the real fights in life are when you have to produce healthy and happy results in the real world of corporates, businesses, family, friendships, etc, which will put us to test of whether what we learned before that can help us stand well in facing the challenges. Mind you, your knowledge, a skills and attitudes shape your future abilities. Come back to the dilemma of this girl. Certain she is facing daunting problems- finance, not sure of career choice, and severe emotional problems. These can be real stumbling blocks, but not entireless situation. Give her right perspective of life, motivation, and MAKE HER SEE WHAT SHE IS WORTH FIRST, that she is actually a bright girl who needs to be focussed and realistic. Achievement in life can be slow or fast, with so many options available, and with so many available financial aids availble, so don’t despair. one step at a time, achieve one objective at a time. Hope these suggestions can reach her and lift up her spirit. Alex.

  8. correction of words : ” not entirely hopeless situation” instead of “not entireless situation”. Sorry, Alex

  9. […] into an article (and a blog post) became one of the most popular posts here. I’ve helped people close to despair and supported other young people helping their peers. There were attempts at a blog carnival and at […]

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