KUALA LUMPUR – “I must get straight A’s in my UPSR. It is my own obsession. Good grades will promise a better future and help me make a decent living.”
These were the words from Rushill Marimuthu of SK Taman Rakan, Bandar Mahkota Cheras, who like many other students stayed up late to revise for his Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) examination, in order to obtain straight A’s, so he would not be left out in the competitive educational world.
Besides, he felt very much pressured to show that he was also a ‘genius’ to get five As, and stand on par with a few top scorers in his family.
With such a mindset, experts say straight A’s obsession can actually be a sign that a child is not learning what he needs to learn in order to be successful in life.
“This ridiculous obsession must be put to stop. In grade-obsessed society, learning gets left behind, and when this happens, school will suddenly becomes a scary place,” says lecturer Norazleen Mohamad Noor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Kampar campus).
Norazleen said it was a common belief about quality-of-life between children who got A’s in school and those who got C’s, whereby they are ‘rigidly’ trained to believe that results in exams are a number one priority.
“With the benchmark created among their families, and friends, parents also want the students to score straight A’s. Otherwise, they (parents) feel that C-average students will end up becoming unskilled field labourers or blue-collared workers,” she told Bernama.
Such situation is different from an affluent society like in the United States, where C-average students can become rich company Chief Executive Officers, or even celebrities.
Therefore, Norazleen noted that parents should not push their child who is not academically inclined, which would further increase their stress level and lead to untoward incidents.
Meanwhile, Professor Dr Turiman Suandi, a lecturer from Universiti Putra Malaysia, said learning should be meaningful and enjoyable, and parents need to understand ‘that you can’t judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree’.
“I would not say all parents are obsessed in ensuring that students get straight A’s. It is a mindset or society stigma, that only with excellent results, their children can be successful in the life.
“While we may all want our children to get good grades, we should ask ourselves what grades mean and what exactly it is that they reflect,” he said, adding that education was about building character and values.
However, Turiman said such an attitude was no longer there, and now it was more based on the rat race as parents were forcing their children, at an early age, like three or four, to excel.
Shiveh Sivalingam, a Pre-University Academic Teacher of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Cochrane, who agreed with Turiman, said it’s not the end of life if a student is not a straight A’s student.
“This is because everybody can become somebody if you really work hard to achieve what you really want to be. Why are Malaysian parents so obsessed with grades, standardised tests, and getting their kids into top-ranked colleges or univerisities?
“All parents should learn to relax. Children should not be evaluated based on the number of As achieved. Every child has a strength and allow it to blossom on that strength. When that happens, success will follow, naturally,” she said.
Shiveh suggested that parents should also encourage their child to learn and do other things such as sports and extra co-curricular activities where they learn essential values.
A mother of three, Maizatul Lina Mustapa, 38, believes that if her children are not academically inclined, she would not push them so much, instead she would build a good relationship with them so they can bring out their abilities.
“The point is, grades are not everything. Excellence is the hidden secret to education. We need to focus on learning and improving, letting the “good grades” come naturally,” she said, adding that some parents just want to be ‘people-pleasers’ in society.
Maizatul noted that the culture of parents liking to compare a student’s achievement with another must stop, instead they should concentrate to educate the weaker child to believe their abilities.
The senior executive secretary for a company in Doha also suggested that the media should stop highlighting top students, instead pick some average students to motivate them about their achievements.
For mother of two, Rosie Chan, 40, said parents should be educated to focus on the strenght of their child, as every child is gifted with skills which will produce greatness in the future. – Bernama