The yearly examination results announcement season is here again and as usual the nation celebrates the achievements of top scorers not realizing that Malaysians' preoccupation with "scoring" in school examinations does no one any favours.
For the high-achieving students themselves, it instills the perception that straight A’s are the be-all and end-all of school life. Co-curricular activities and simply socialising with friends -- so important in developing a child's social skills -- may thereby be neglected. Moreover, the pressure to keep on getting top marks could prove overbearing, and if the student should fare less well in a subsequent exam, there might be adverse effects on his or her emotional health sometimes resulting in depression or even suicides.
On their part, the non-top-scorers may feel as if they are left by the wayside amid the glorification of good grades, and end up having a sense of low self-worth and an inferiority complex.
Nor is society as a whole best served by the race for A’s. The prevailing exam culture has fostered a dependence on uncritical rote learning which will not help the cause of promoting creativity and innovation in the long run. And as has been well documented, many leading lights in business, the arts and science, such as Albert Einstein, James Cameron and Steve Jobs, were in fact dropouts. The examination-based education system can in fact stifle creativity, original and critical thinking as such different modes of thought usually give us varied answers.
All this is not, of course, to celebrate mediocrity; on the contrary, we should always strive to improve ourselves and pursue high achievement. At the same time, we must also recognise that achievement comes in myriad forms, not just a string of A’s on the exam results slip. While some people may be academically inclined, others may be good with their hands, have innate artistic abilities, be natural people persons ... and the list goes on. Although these life skills do not feature in our examinations, they are often more important than academic skills because working life demands these communication, interpersonal, leadership and other qualities, often more than the technical skills.
Rethink of our priorities may thus be in order. Instead of emphasising A’s at all costs, let us work towards an education system that nurtures well-rounded individuals and offers each student the opportunity to be the best they can be -- now that would be something we can really be proud off.
The celebration of academic achievements through news reports should be stopped as it only serves to strengthen our preoccupation with academic achievements. We are producing skewed students who know a lot about examination-taking but lack other real life skills.
-- Letter of Editor, 27 November 2012