I REFER to the teenager in Malacca, who allegedly consumed pesticide and died after getting poor Sijil Pelajaran Malayisa results ("SPM failure takes own life" -- NST, March 23).
Apart from E. Premkumar, there have been many teenagers who committed suicide after such exam results.
We must put a stop to this. We must stop pouring scorn on low achievers.
No doubt getting 10As is good and this bodes well for a wider path in education.
But scoring 10As is not everything. Possessing skills and abilities is equally important.
Thus, while advising children to study hard and pass exams, we must also tell them that life is about a balance between doing well at exams and having other skills.
Life is wider than the sphere of exams
Our children's passion to pass exams with as many As as possible is driven by a need to earn respect from from parents and other children. This is the start of the rat race. And what is at stake is character.
To counter this, we can tell children that they need not only earn respect by scoring many As in SPM, but also by being more skilful than the rest.
There are many things they can excel in, for example, as tailors and cooks. Therefore, there are other things than scoring As.
Another measure of life is success. But success can come from other arenas and skills developed from discipline. Thus, life and success are subject to a person's discipline, not just good scores in exams.
As such, self-discipline should be developed at home.
We should explain to children that a good life can also stem from self-knowledge. Hence, we first have to recognise children's likes and wants, and later, their goals and values.
Appreciating their values and wants will likely produce confident teenagers. Confidence allows them to withstand setbacks in life, such as dismal SPM results. Encourage children to jot down their ambitions and plans. No matter how childish the dreams look, show that we appreciate them.
Likewise, make children see the wisdom of improving themselves. They do not have to compete against their peers. Many teenagers, especially those who are hooked on Facebook, compare themselves to others. Excessive comparison may result in low-self esteem.
In the larger picture, the upbringing of young citizens differs from nation to nation. It is subject to a nation's culture and development. In a poor nation, bringing up children could be about fleeing poverty.
But in a rich country, bringing up children is more complicated. So our task is tougher as we are an almost developed nation.
The state of the economy also influences the way we bring up children and it differs from decade to decade. For example, in the 1970s, it was about preparing children to step out of poverty. Now, 40 years later, the aim is to turn them into people with character.
Character will show up in a person who can mix well. There is no point of scoring 10 As if one cannot socialise with others.
Thus, a person who does badly in exams but can socialise well, speak confidently and is rich with ideas, has an equal chance at success.
A person who can work in a group has a good chance of succeeding because we need to work in teams.
To be in a group, one has to project patience and tolerance. Also, we must teach children to be respectful and confident.
Many successful men and women, who had contributed to society, were not multiple A scorers.
They were mediocre, some even dropouts, but they were hardworking, confident and positively different.
Tan Sri P. Ramlee didn't attend any music school but he composed songs and directed films successfully. Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson dropped out of high school and Bill Gates quit in his first year at Harvard University.
These talented people, who beyond the grasp and understanding of the common person, succeeded in their enterprises to earn respect.
Children can learn from those around them, so parents can take them to see how the disadvantaged and deprived live. Awareness of this will add to their character.
Parents must instil the message in them that to succeed in life, one must be disciplined first.
We do not want to see more teenagers dying because they fared badly in exams. Stop putting them in perpetual fear of failing. Life is wider than the sphere of exams.
Perhaps we can learn from the wisdom of this proverb: if a man does only what is required of him, he is a slave, but if a man does more than what is required of him, he is a free man
By Dr Megawati Omar, Research Management Institute, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Selangor
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 27 March 2012