Students believe top marks in examinations translate to success in life
WHAT'S in an A? In an examination-oriented culture, an A can be everything. In countries like Malaysia, where competition for university entrance and scholarships is stiff, straight As can usually secure one the course and university of choice, and a bursary for that entire course. Having gone to the right university and taken the right course, the lucky graduate is then presumed to be set for life. And in most cases, this might indeed be the case.
But does this mean there is magic in an A? In itself, no. Yet, for every examination result and university entrance season, much is made of the A -- including whether or not education standards have gone down; whether marking standards have declined; or whether the A carries the same high value as it once did. Others argue that straight As alone won't carry a student far if not coupled with equally impressive co- or extra-curricular activities.
All these concerns are valid, because academic qualifications have high currency in this country. But more than just an indication that the student knows the subjects well, straight As are the result of being very focused and very hardworking. For even if education standards have gone down (and there is as yet no proof of this, only speculation) the fact is that to be in the 99.99th percentile of a class of over 400,000 in any given year, is no mean feat. Consider all the joys and distractions in the life of the average 16 or 17-year-old; push those firmly away and focus on the books and lessons. To be able to do every single exercise in all the revision books available, and doing them so many times, that, when the examinations do come, hold no surprises for the fully-prepared student -- when all the while life beckons, begging to be lived! -- is evidence of the degree of discipline that is needed in gaining straight As.
Of course, there are many more things that are needed for living a good and fulfilling life. Being resilient, flexible, and adaptive to changes, having "soft skills", a rounded personality, a varied and active social life, are also crucial. Parents wanting to bring up successful adults would do well to ensure that their children understand that life has many layers and dimensions, and living it well requires the ability to interpret and adapt to all the different facets life presents. So, to advise one's children that "As aren't everything in life" is correct. But this should not distract from the fact that hard work is a very important value; and there should be no shame in having it.
Source: The New Straits Times Editorial 06 May 2012