Don’t Blame the Education System. It’s Doing Its Job Just Fine

So let’s discuss blame. More specifically the blame on the education system. Because that’s the way public sentiment is headed these days. Unemployment. Blame the education system. Exports still commodity-based. Blame the education system. Obesity. Blame the education system. Poverty. Blame the education system. Lack of innovation among our companies. Blame the education system. Really? Is the education system to be blamed? Is our education system so bad that it teaches our young nothing to the extent that we as a nation fail on so many fronts? Well, what is the education system all about? It’s about the grades, isn’t it? And why grades? Because without grades, you will not be able to differentiate someone who is capable of solving calculus from someone who can’t add two fractional numbers. Because without grades, our companies will be crippled by the process of having to run their own examination systems (syllabus setting, question writing, invigilating, marking and publishing) every time they have a vacancy to fill. Because without grades, you can’t tell apart those lacking focus, discipline, hard work and perseverance from those who do. Because without grades, you can’t decide who deserves the RM400,000 scholarship opportunity to study Mathematics in Imperial College and who doesn’t. The schooling system helps with the grading process. The schooling system is nothing but a standardized, transparent and consistent process of preparing anyone regardless of their background to eventually be graded. That’s what is should be, shouldn’t it? And our schooling system does a pretty good job at it. So what’s there to be blamed on the education system? That there should be no grading? Why? Because kids can’t cope? What sort of coping are we talking about? Someone gets 3As in UPSR and he/she can’t cope because someone else in the class has 5As? This isn’t a coping issue, is it? This is parents unleashing their dissatisfaction over other parents with smarter kids, isn’t it? This is also the behaviour of spoilt kids not wanting to acknowledge the hard work and prowess of their class mates, isn’t it? Because as far as we know it, our schools do compliment kids who do well, but never ever punish anyone who does any lesser. If there’s any sort of punishment going on, it’s by the parents and the kith-and-kin of the student, in which case, the education department has no blame to take. If anything, these parents need psychiatric help or counselling for taking it out on their young ones for failures of their own. So what else is there to be blamed on our education system? That it doesn’t produce the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Ma? Which frankly, seems to be some people’s expectations these days. Our education system may not have produced billionaires like these, but has produced plenty of CEOs, entrepreneurs, top surgeons, top lawyers, the best engineers and many others who are kings in their fields. Because if there were none, we will have foreigners filling up all our corporate buildings, hospitals and courts, won’t we? And there will not be RM1 trillion worth of goods and services produced annually in this country, would there? So, what else? Yes, discrimination. The fact that there are a lot of graduates who are not really qualified. Border-line cases who still manage to find ways to get their hands on the degree scroll. Is this a problem of our education system? No. No because all these ‘getting degrees’ with just a couple of Bs and Cs in SPM happens after students leave our education system and hop onto the alternative ways of getting ahead, including paying heftily to private colleges and foreign institutions of learning to land offers in courses that they have no chance of getting into if it were via public institutions of tertiary education. The mushrooming of private roadside colleges is the manifestation of this short-cut-to-success mentality, and well, where does this end if not in the exodus of low quality graduates who flood the job market and reduce the graduate entry pay as well as overall prospects for degree holders. Many argue that the public education system too does take in less qualified persons into tertiary levels, but they forget that these young people don’t get placement into Medicine, Engineering and Law, but instead are offered much less preferred courses with little economic opportunity and they(the applicants) accept these offers anyway because these are still hard-earned seats. And the institutions they go to are low on the overall ranking, so really, they are not undercutting anyone in the order of merit. So, all in all, the blame put on our education system is often the resultant of many who despite having benefitted from the free education system are expecting to be rewarded too much for too little effort. No system is perfect. At some point, every education system will draw the curtains on the fun bits and will open the doors to the exam halls. The education system is nothing but a grading system that comes with 10 years of free preparation classes and of course, for most people a bonus of great friendships, comradeship and some of life’s best memories. It is serious business and it is a privilege. By constantly putting it down, young people are being taught to disregard good old qualities like hard work and perseverance, and are being misled into believing that the world is full of unicorns and money trees and no real effort is necessary.   This article was first published here.

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