Saturday, November 28, 2009




This is what “Boleh-land” can produce, students with straight A’s for up to 17 subjects but fail at university 2nd year exams. If she ever gets to be a medical doctor, don’t know who wants to be her patients. No wonder my elder son was sent on a wild goose chase just for a simple leg ligament tear case! 3 doctors had a look at his X-ray but all could not or dare not give a correct diagnosis of his case. Only the doctor at the private hospital could give us the assurance.

I was really shocked and speechless to be informed about Nur Amalina Che Bakri. Nur Amalina had held briefly the record of the most A's scored in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia . Upon the announcement of results of SPM 2004 on 26 March 2005, she received 17 1As - a record for number of A's received by a student in the history of Malaysian education back then. She was
sponsored by Bank Negara Malaysia to study medicine in the United Kingdom, and did her A-levels at the Cheltenham Ladies College in the UK . Now I am informed that she had failed her second year medical study at the University of Edinburgh . What went wrong? Could English language be the problem? We are going back to Malay medium again and that means trouble.


I was told that one of the girls with the most number of A's, 17 A1's, in SPM and who is currently on a scholarship in UK to study medicine failed in her second year examination.

While passing and failing examination is part and parcel of a student’s life, this case is particularly alarming, as this is supposed to be our cream of the cream. There may be other reasons why she failed , but this case typifies the trend of many of our so-called ‘top scholars’ failing in overseas universities.

I have mentioned before that among my daughter ’s year doing medicine in University of Auckland , there were many JPA's scholars (more than 10). Only one graduated with the class. The rest have failed along the way and have to repeat the year which they have failed. Some have failed one year, passed on second attempt and then failed again in another year. It is not
uncommon to have someone who failed a few times along the way.

These scholars are supposed to represent the cream of our students, and yet they struggled to get through the course. We must find out the reasons why so many of these scholars fail when they are supposed to be the our top students.

Granted that in an examination, even a good student can do badly sometimes, but to have a disproportional high failure rate among the so called top students is alarming and cannot be attributed to ‘luck’ or the lack of it. Compare this with those on their fathers’ scholarship, very
few of the latter group failed.

Is it because our marking system is at fault? Is there any differential markings of papers? Is our education system at fault? I think the time has come to have a thorough re-examination of the whole education as well as the examination system. It really reflects badly on our country when scholarship holders fail in their examinations at an alarming rate.

When a scholarship holder fails and has to repeat a year, it would cost the Country a lot of money which can actually be used to finance more students for study. Scholarship holders also live a life of relative luxury, compared to self-financed students, and they normally stay in the best hostels and many of them have cars and so on… SO the whole system of awarding scholarship should be reviewed too…

If the students scores an exemplary number of distinctions (A's in Malaysia ) in a public exam, they are considered the pinnacle of what the Country's education system is capable of producing. They are expected to go through tertiary education anywhere in the world with flushing success.
So what could possibly have happened if they fail abroad?

Malaysia 's education system has always been a laughing stock. Based purely on numeric superiority and mindless rote learning methods that even the British has long abandoned decades earlier, Malaysia continues to believe that the more A's the students attain, the better equipped they are. It doesn't matter how they get the A's so long as the aim is to get them and get as many in the process. So if the students were to labour over numerous past year exam papers in the library, memorise the answers and focus only on what the teacher 'suggests' are likely to come out for the exam, that's all right by everyone. The education system doesn't teach
the students to UNDERSTAND the material. It doesn't encourage proactive teaching methods that encourage students to discover knowledge but to merely be taught.

When a student with 17 Distinctions fail in the real world, it is not a surprise. Perhaps it is to many Malaysians, but it's a system that is waiting to reward its students with spectacular failure when they leave the shores and compete overseas or when they enter the workforce. Many
organisations in the private sector have continued to be horrified at the performance of such students during interviews. Communication skills are absent Standard ethics are absent. Common courtesy codes are absent. Presentation skills as well as personal grooming are absent What has the education system taught them?

If Malaysia continue to embark on the road of plain numeric superiority instead of to challenge the students to think, provoke them to create their own opinions and to communicate expressively, to eloquently define their standing in the world, there can never be an international leader in any field or industry emanating from Malaysia . It never produced one in
the last 20 years. It never will for the next 100 years.