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The measure of success

THE scene of young Malaysians going to school, doing a little homework and playing hopscotch appears to the imagination like a picturesque oil painting.

It is something to be admired, and desired perhaps, but that era is gone forever. Some will mourn its loss and watch helplessly as people in the modern world cope under pressure.

Present-day youngsters, like their parents, are involved in far too many activities. Tuition and more tuition dominate their schedules.

Studies shows parents, including those in Malaysia, are pushing their children hard with many liking the idea of scoring straight As. Pix by SAIRIEN NAFIS.


Others also have to rush to piano and swimming lessons as well as football practice and ballet class, among other trendy extracurricular activities.

It is understandable if the young ones feel exhausted from too many things to do. Studies show that parents, including those in Malaysia, are pushing their children too hard.

Many parents like the idea of their children being good at everything — straight As, attend prestigious schools and have skills that will give them the competitive edge — all of which is fine.

But, experts say these goals represent just one aspect of what accounts for success in life and, sadly, many parents tend to ignore the type of accomplishment that honours inner strength, such as knowing and appreciating oneself, taking on life’s trials and tribulations with patience, seeking careers that are emotionally fulfilling, associating with people who are compassionate and loyal and holding a deep conviction that their purpose in life is to be close to their Creator and contribute meaningfully to society.

The outburst of parents, teachers and pupils at the recent Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results revealed Malaysian society’s preoccupation with an external, performance-oriented version of success rather than an internal celebration of real curiosity about learning and the various ways youngsters perceive and experience things.

The results showed that the number of As scored by our 12-year-olds has reduced drastically compared with last year’s figures.

Only 4,896 pupils scored straight As, which represents 1.11 per cent of the 452,721 pupils who sat for the examination this year, as opposed to 38,344 pupils that secured all As under the previous format last year.

The most worrying facet of the issue is that we have taught our children to measure their self-worth by the results of a public examination.

No wonder the poor things feel ashamed of themselves, hopeless and inferior, among other negative emotions.

The tragedy is not in the reduction of As, but in the response of society to what it perceives as the poor performance of pupils who had sat for the UPSR. How did we get here?

This is something for policymakers with the help of researchers to figure out and take steps to attain the type of achievement that has nothing to do with straight As.

Obtaining good grades, while important, is less valuable in the long run than teaching children the art of being resourceful and adopting a positive attitude.

Parents should also embrace the “let kids fail” concept. There is no shame in failure because it builds character and this is as important as academic performance in helping your offspring become successful adults.

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