Tuesday, 6 May 2008


I did hesitate before deciding to forward this. It's the timing, you see: It's full throtle time to final submission on May 13 and I really wouldn't like any of you to chuck it in at this stage.

Not that I think any of you would.

It's not so much the fixation with the A grade that some of us might have but rather the valid call towards the larger Life-Agenda that I think makes this email worth a read ... over a teh tarik...or ice-blended coffee...or something. (Moccha, Vanilla, All Choclate are all ok, actually.)

I really would like to hear some comments from those who got more than 3 As for their SPM.

(email from homefrontier egroup)

Sunday February 26, 2006
`A' is for attitude

Success in life does not depend on scoring straight As in exams, but rather on another kind of `A', opines ZAHIRA TIARA SHAFIQ.

I WAS a good student in school. Could have been a straight-A student, if only I had heeded my teachers' admonitions to study harder.

I did well enough in the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examinationsto qualify for the science stream, but opted to study literaturebecause I wanted to follow my heart. I knew I wouldn't enjoy science at all, so why go through the anguish?In school, I was very active. I was in the school's debating team in Form Four. We emerged district runners-up and even wrote the lyrics ofthe song for Teacher's Day celebrations that year.

I also became a major fan of Channel [V]'s By Demand and created a fanwebsite for them. They loved it, and I soon made friends with the crew and the VJs.

However, when I was in Form Five, I was diagnosed with panic disorderand depression, and had to undergo treatment for both. My headmistresswas sympathetic and asked if I wanted to take a break from school.

My family and I said no. I continued at school, but was appalled to see how teachers cared more about the number of As students could score than their welfare.

They relaxed this stance when one of my peers passed away from a heart affliction, but within a month, it was back to the mad frenzy for As,without regard for health or anything else.

Some of my friends were so stressed out over the impending SijilPelajaran Malaysia examinations that they went into depression. A classmate suffered a bout of hysteria and was transferred to anotherschool.

My teacher's response?

"I hope she doesn't take her SPM results here; she would only bringdown our perfect grade record."

Eventually, I scored five As in the SPM exam. However, those five A swere meaningless as I did not qualify for scholarships.

Not to be deterred, I took a year off after secondary school and did lots of things. I travelled, enrolled in dance classes, joined BRATs(even did an interview with Asha Gill which made the front page of OleBrats) and took a Radio DJ workshop.

I also designed and launched Asha Gill's official website Asha Gill.Comas well as set up my freelance production company Blessed*Be Productions.

Mind you, all this had nothing to do with my SPM grades. Later, I enrolled in university. I did well and was a volunteer withAmnesty International. I was even selected to interview our PrimeMinister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and the Democratic ActionParty's Lim Kit Siang.

I was also a semi-finalist for the Hitz.FM Radio Icon.

It was while I was in university that I started looking for alternative opportunities to education, and I stumbled into the UpWith People's WorldSmart Leadership Programme which offers successfulcandidates an inter-cultural global educational experience involvingtravel to seven countries around the world, with plenty ofexperiential learning.

In the application, they did ask for "high school results", but thatwas not a priority to them. What mattered was leadership andcommunication skills as well as the willingness to learn and be flexible.They asked me many things in the interview but nothing about the SPMresults.

I applied and became the first Malaysian in the WorldSmart LeadershipProgramme in its 40-year history.

I spent a semester travelling through the US, Japan, and Europe with people from 27 different countries, doing community service, learningabout the region, working on internships and projects, and living withhost families.

Due to my active involvement, I was elected Crew Representative for mygroup.

I am now on a hiatus from university. In a few days, I will start anew job with Channel [V] International, thanks to the fansite I madewhen I was not even 16.

And I realise that whatever I have achieved so far was done withoutthe scoring straight As in the SPM.

In fact, the SPM results did not matter at all.All that stress and panic for nothing.

I have been in touch with friends from school who scored straight As, and while they are doing okay, they sound envious of me.

I even gave a talk at my former school about the opportunities out in the world and the students were amazed and inspired.

It is not difficult to get enriching experiences.

All you have to do is to look out there and be open to new things. Opportunities are there if you look hard enough.

Some people say you need As to get scholarships. That is not necessarily true. FastWeb's Scholarship Search, a big online database for Americanscholarships, offers plenty of scholarships where priority is increative and critical thinking, as well as life experiences.

They have scholarships that require you to make a short film, writeessays, analyse books, write a science fiction story... but there isno mention of exam results.

There is no point in getting straight As if that is all you are goodat. Even Harvard encourages its students to take a year off and getsome much-needed experience before enrolling.

Employers do not care how many As you have as long as you get the jobdone. As for self-employment or entrepreneurship, that definitely hasnothing to do with your SPM results (just ask Bill Gates).

There are so many opportunities out there that do not depend on exam results.

Why stress yourself out over something that, in the long run, does notreally matter all that much?

Why put yourself at the risk of mental trauma, or even suicide?

Really, SPM results are not worth worrying over.

There is so much more to the world out there than just As.

Go out and learn.


Have the right attitude.

The world is much bigger than that slip of paper with your results on it.

Tiara's Blog: EducateDeviate <http://educatedevia te.wordpress. com/>>
Worldsmart Leadership Program <http://www.upwithpe ople.org/>See also < http://orgs. takingitglobal. org/6139>
FastWeb: Scholarships, Internships, Colleges <http://www.fastweb. com/>contains over 1.3 million scholarships worth over $3 billion.


ian ng said...

I really would like to hear some comments from those who got more than 3 As for their SPM.

Issac said...

I got 2As only XD
Juz wanna wish everyone GOOD LUCK for the remaining days
+ U!

sa!nt said...

i scored 10As, and was really active during highschool. but i have to admit it did not help at all in what i'm doing right now (besides self-satisfaction and the measly 30% scholarship that taylors so 'generously' offered..)
SPM is really nothing, even if u scored straight A's, people just go hoohaa for that 1 or 2 days after the release of result, and then wat? nothing. no one ever talks abt it anymore.
unless of cos..u want to apply for scholarship offered by the government. and lagi best if ur erm..bumiputra..sensitive issue here..
so i agree that doing badly in spm is not the end of world. i've known ppl who did fair but right now they're doing way better than those 'top-scorers' in highschool. this article further proved it.

sometimes i wonder why i'm doing architecture - issit wat i really want to do? enrolling in colleges/unis is just a 'safe path' for me to secure a better living in the future. (and its not even tat safe...)

I'm not ambitious. i've thot abt it, and i realized what i really want to do with my life is to travel the world and volunteer in charity works. really. i'm not joking. but i just dunno whr to start :\

sa!nt said...

with regards to the teacher's remarks abt ruining the perfect record of the school..issit just me, or ALL the teachers/headmasters/headmistresses in msia are like that? I was from a school which sadly, house a bunch of these kinda ppl.
back then, these so called teachers looked down on my best fren, chastised her, gossiped abt her in the staff room, and said that she will be the only one that will ruin our class's straight A's hope.
look and behold, wat happened on the day when the results were released? my best fren became the top scorer of the school, getting 12 or was it 13As. suddenly all the teachers became buddy-buddy with her.
later, like all of us, she enrolled in ADP in taylors but dropped out knowing that was not wat she wanted to do. she took some time off, did a lot of other works, became a semi-famous blogger in the blogosphere, appearing in lots of media event.
recently she got accepted into some of the top unis in US, including a few ivy leagues.
she'll be attending Columbia University soon.

ALL this, i have to say, has minimal or NOTHING to do with SPM.

Joshua said...

Sieu Theng, are you refering to pinkpau/Su Ann? Wow, I didn't know she was one of those people the teachers doubt. She always sounds really bright.

Anyway, I completely agree. I only got a measly 6 or 7As (can't remember exactly, that's how much it matters now). My only regret for not doing better is that my family could really have used the scholarship.

Aside from it being as a stepping stone to something like a scholarship, I honestly don't believe a piece of paper with some alphabets defines who you are. I will admit though, that I am as grade-conscious as any of my friends when I know I'm getting what I deserve, I know when it's because I'm lazy etc. I suppose I would really care most when I feel that I'm being unfairly graded. The one that stands out most to me was my one and only C in SPM, for English Literature. Doing pretty well in my tutorials with a class of 6 or so, I was the only one amongst them who got anything below A2. To say it was disappointing and a shock was an understatement.

Back to the topic, I was pretty active in school too, with the school magazine particularly. I'm not exactly sure what my teachers thought of me, but I'm happy to say the ones I remember of are definitely not as heartless as the teachers mentioned in the blog post...I hope...

sa!nt said...

joshua: haha ya its pinkpau. did u know that the total days she was absent from class in f5 = 100 days = 3 months. then she got a freaking A for attendance in the testimonial while i got a freaking B for just skipping class 10 days. then hor, she always sleeps in class n never submit her homework wan. hehehe. dont tell her this ar or else she keel me.

bblsh said...

i get 9as..8A1s...50% scholarship.bcs have a quite nice co-curricular..eventually i get myself into basketball state team before...but is ntg!!!bcs other ppl still better than us...we r so "small"...i m quite agree wif ian style(take life easier and have fun,still must have some awareness la)!!we hv ntg to lose..so try harder n fight fight fight....as typical chinese!!!!!!!!!!

Jon da Penang said...

A for attitude, yea agreed, everyone must have the correct attitude but not towards getting As and scoring but rather learning and self improving, well thats my believe, and im so glad i stuck to it, cuz after every sem, i'd get to take with me something so much more valuable than an A, and its not just in education, its so satisfying if i might say so myself...hehe, i will never stop learning, so i'll be crossing fingers and hope the scholarship management boards takes this into account when they select the candidates....*big laugh*..

e t c h E D said...

I did considerably well in my SPM. Not because i was smart, it was because all the hard work ive put in.
We view things in our own perception only. But try to put ourselves in other people's shoes. Taylorians are usually financially alright(musn't be rich) and therefore they can do and choose what they are keen in studying.
For some of my friends who are financially not-so-ok, they need to strive very very hard in order to get a placement for local U and also scholarships.
Some of my friends who are STPM leavers. They can't get the course they want even they got straight As or 3As..
So i always consider myself very lucky being able to do something i really want to do. Wondering, what would i be if i couldnt afford taylors n currently doing something i dont enjoy. You'll only have the passion doing things you love.
Of course, hard work and determination can make miracles. So good luck to all and be greatful to our parents.. Unless you pay the tuition fees with your own earnings. =] All the best to all.

ian ng said...

A thousand apologies for being one month late, but this does deserve a comment. Tx, All, for the rather frank revelations. They're eye openers to me as I was never in the same league as some of you. We could never dream of anything more than 8 As in our days. 8 was the max no. of subjects we were allowed to take. (I would have been happier if it were 6..haha.)And needless to say, my score came nowhere near that..haha. 5 As, not bad, but not good enough to boast about, just bearable enough not to be ashamed of. But the main thing was...i dun remember being too affected by it all at all. I just happily brushed it aside and dropped into Form 6. I guess taking part in all those sports and photo competitions and fellowships distracted me somewhat. (Later, they would distract me much too much..haha.) Those were the days when we lived charmed lives, without tuition and without peer comparisons. Education was a little more holistic, i guess.

And having gone thru it all the thing i guess i could have done with most is Guidance. There wasn't enough of it. Had i known what architecture (or architectural education) was all about I wouldn't have been so silly as to plum for double maths in Form Six. Hated it. I would have been happier doing Eng. Literature, Economics, Physics and Art, or Logic or Speech and Drama (if they were available--Drat the Educ system!). Of course i loved the General Paper. And I might have made a better choice in a school of architecture. Not that Leeds Metro was bad, i hasten to add--it was a good school. But I might have chosen a warmer and more scenic city to spend 6 years, since i had access to almost any of the 50 schools in the UK. Like, 'all i want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air.' Haha! It was freezing in my basement flat in Leeds..hahaha. We had 2 of the coldest winters in the last 50 years, or something crazy like that. (Icicles hung over my front door, and we went toboganning in the white park.) Somewhere around London would have been perfect. (You get huge discount for theatre tickets with your student card.. Haha)

As you can see, i've drifted far far away from the subject of how many As did u get...haha. That's precisely it. It's not how many As that matters in the end. If i had to put it down to something, i'd say it comes down to making sure that you steer yourself always to the place of the pulse of life, to a place where it's as happening as you can take, where the frequency of the action is at a level you can manage comfortably, where there's enough challenge for you to change into what you want to become. Friends you can make, wherever you go, new ones, though the presence of old ones helps. I guess we've all got to be open to the new as far as this goes--it comes with the exploration of new ideas, it's a given.

But, hey, we mustn't be so dismissive of what you DID achieve in your numerous As, even if the echoes of the hooha have long faded from memory. If you worked hard for it, then be forever pleased with it. No room for false modesty here. Just see it for what, as Weiyang said, it was--an outcome of discipline. As long you see that as a mere subset of the greater education (re: my posting COUNTER CULTURE, today) i reckon you'd all do just fine.