SPM is part of the rite of passage into adulthood which does not require any other overburdening parental expectation.
THE public examination season has started with the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) kicking off on Monday with over 470,000 students sweating it out in school halls and classrooms throughout the country.
This will probably be the single most important examination they will take in their life because many people, rightly or wrongly, make judgments based on their SPM results.
Placing such unnecessary pressure on 17-year-olds is really ridiculous although the importance of the exam cannot be denied.
Finishing your SPM is part of a rite of passage. Somehow by finishing Form Five, which coincides with most teenagers turning 18, one seem to move on to another phase of one’s life.
That is how SPM should be treated and it is not the end of the world if one does not do well nor does it mean it will be smooth sailing if you score all A’s. It is another signpost in life just like the day you passed your driving test.
I am not advocating that students deliberately fail — one must pass all exams in life — their SPM but to place the exam in perspective as should their parents.
Parents should instead guide their children into this awkward rite of passage into adulthood — their first serious boyfriend or girlfriend will come after this, their first drive on their own in your car, and their first important career path decision.
As parents we want our children to go to the best universities in the world, get the best degrees, find the right partner and do well in life. And we all agree finishing the SPM marks the start of it all.
A couple of decades ago there were very few choices after you finished your SPM. If you wanted to further your education you could either go overseas immediately to do A-Levels, join a private college to do the same, do your diploma in some technical course and if you are capable, do your Form Six so that you can enter one of the five or six public universities then.
Things have changed. There are over 1,759 courses approved by the Malaysian Qualification Register for over 500 private institutes of higher learning, including 48 private universities and university colleges. There are 20 public universities run by either the federal or state governments.
Our 472,541 students sitting for the SPM are spoilt for choice. If they put their mind to it, none of them should be without tertiary education if that is what they (and their parents) want.This is where the problem gets complicated. Everyone wants their child to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer, but is that what their children want?
We must remember that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg never finished their college degrees. They were all dropouts from Stanford and Harvard universities.
Many will agree with me that if they had stayed on in college we would have no Windows, Apple of Facebook today. All three of them quit college because they felt the daily grind was holding them back.
But having said that, not everyone can invent the iPhone or Facebook but yet everyone can be innovative regardless of their paper qualifications.
But we don’t have to look to the United States for examples of innovative builders of success because we have many such examples in Malaysia.
One is Public Bank founder Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow, who is among the richest Malaysians, who started his working life at the age of 20 with a Cambridge (Overseas) School Certificate which is equivalent to our SPM these days as it was also a Form Five exam.
“I think it takes more than paper qualification or a connection to be successful in your life or in your professional career. Though a paper qualification may be required for entry purposes, other things such as personal qualities and motivation matter for success. In real life, you need more than theories and subjects that were taught in a classroom.
“You need a wider perspective than just a classroom education to solve practical problems. In particular, you need a wide range of knowledge, right attitude and wisdom which can be developed on-the-job to continuously improve yourself. You must also have an open mind. For me, informal education and continuous learning are the cornerstones of my success,” Teh said in an interview in 2010.
The bank made a massive RM2.88bil profit in the first nine months of this year.
Then there is the founder of Genting Highland, the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong who came to then Malaya as a young man with minimum education.
Having met Lim many times, he and I always communicated in broken Hokkien, Cantonese and bahasa pasar or colloquial Malay. However, despite the lack of formal language, he always came across sharp and decisive.
He was for many years one of the richest men in the country.
Another self-made man who only had Form Five education is Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. He is today estimated to be worth over RM10bil and is said to be the sixth richest man in Malaysia.
After Form Five, Syed Mokhtar started working in his father’s cattle breeding business. He ventured into meat packing when his father’s venture was wiped out by the foot and mouth disease.
“I am nothing special. I am just a businessman from a small town with a Form Five education. I have no diplomas and I speak the layman’s language but I mean well. I just ask for things to be done properly,” he said in an interview with The Star in 2004.
Some may question the accumulation of his wealth but very few will question his business acumen.
“I never behaved like a big man because everyone, whether he is a Malay, Chinese or Indian, is the same. The most important thing is that we must be consistent and work our way up. There is no short cut to success,” said Syed Mokhtar who I am sure will climb a few more notches up the rich-list with his acquisition of Proton.
Teh, Lim and Syed Mokhtar are typical examples of self-made men who used their business acumen to succeed and never let their limited formal education handicap them.
Executive editor Wong Sai Wan only got two distinctions in his Form Five exam then called the Malaysian Certificate of Education and that forever changed his life. WHY NOT? By WONG SAI WAN email@example.com The STAR Online Opinion Friday November 9, 2012