Of UPSR And Exams In General

I was busy with my own studying these days and thus did not really pay attention to the gathering clouds of storm brewing in my Facebook Newsfeed.

Imagine my surprise when my newsfeed was full of people sharing articles about the UPSR result that just came out this morning. Apparently people are getting fired up about the massive drop in the percentage of students getting straight As compared to last year’s UPSR performance. Some articles ranted on our country’s flip-flop education system that keeps on changing the syllabus. Some other people expressed their concerns that parents are being very pushy and putting a lot of pressure on their kids to get straight As, forgetting the fact that it is the learning process that matters, not the number of As. Another friend of mine talked about how the kids are devastated and crying their hearts out after seeing their results, as though this is the end of the world as they knew it.

This picture is courtesy of a friend of mine

I was fascinated by the brouhaha of it all. I had no idea what was the big deal. I was curious (darn my INTP trait, when I should be focussing on my studying). So I whatsapp my younger sister (who is a teacher) and I also asked my friend whose mother’s is a headmistress regarding the accuracy of the news I was reading in my newsfeed.

Is it true that the questions that came up in the UPSR was that hard? (Some even say that the questions asked were ridiculously difficult that it would only be appropriate for the level of SPM. Macam….exaggerate jer!! So, of course I am curious).

I asked my friend (whose mother is a senior teacher) whether they have a copy of the exam papers? (I wanted to see for myself how difficult it was. I still remember the level of difficulty that should be appropriate at SPM level. No one should be stupid enough to design an SPM-level kind of questions for a 12 year old kids, right? I strongly suspected that this is a mere exaggeration.)

My sister told me that she has seen the question papers for English. She said that the question is quite appropriate …at least for a standard 4 level. However, she could not be certain about the strictness and method of marking (marking criteria). So, for English at least, I am quite certain that there is no gross injustice regarding the level of difficulty that our UPSR kids were subjected to.

For BM…how difficult can it be? I mean, it’s Bahasa Melayu…right? We speak the language all our lives. BM had always been a bonus A for me and many of my friends (as well as Agama and Tasawwur Islam. We hardly studied them, but we know that we can get A in those subjects). Well, I might be wrong. Maybe I should see the papers first before I comment further.

So, there’s only left Science and Math…for these two, perhaps the questions might be tougher than they would be for 12 year old kids. I heard that these days even standard 1 kids have learned algebra. So…I reserve my judgment on this.

One of my friend (the headmistress daughter) said that the questions were not that tough. She has seen the papers. Hmm….but then she has always been a brilliant person. You never know what is her ‘not tough’ really means. Hahaha. 

Below is my facebook status about what I really feel about  the importance of getting good results in all your exams (not necessarily straight As, but good enough. I have mentioned before in my previous post about the importance of choosing the right school for your kids, and I stand by it).


I am going to have my exam soon, too. I would be heartbroken if I fail. The only difference is, failing in medical profession is so common compared to failing during schooling years. So, it might not feel as painful; just part of the process of getting yourself educated to become a specialists.

With so many people failing their professional exams in the past, this is less of a pressure for me. When I was at school, I have the track record of my brilliant elder sister to break or be at par with. Hahhaa. And my parents are really the sort who put a lot of emphasis on education. They will never be the sort who said “Ala, berapa A tak penting pun.”. (Hahha, only in my wildest dreams they would say that. And I kind of agree with them.) My parents were always very strict about getting good grades. They would reward us well, too. They would say “Mak dengan ayah cuma berletiaq sementara kita tak exam lagi. Nanti bila result dah keluar, memang tak boleh kata apa dah pun. Waktu ni lah yang mak nak berletiaq pun. Dan waktu ni lah kak ngah kena pulun. Lepas result dah keluar, kita kena redha dan terima.” (See? My parents never over-protect me by trying to shield me from disappointment. Even without learning psychiatry, they have practiced the art of being ‘a good enough parent’ as per Winnicott’s theory.They would not say that what I fail to get is not important anyway and therefore I don’t have to be disappointed. She made me understand that this is important. But if I can’t get what I work for, then she taught me to redha. Teach your kids balance thinking. Teach them truth!)

In my opinion, school exams are more full of pressure. Failing at school would be more embarrassing I think, because it is so RARE among your bacthmates, especially if you are in SBP/MRSM. If you are in those SBP/MRSM school like me, you will understand what I mean. Hahha. They were so competitive, I felt stressed out most of the time!  (I always feel like my SPM was the most important exam of my life. It open doors to a lot of options in your future. It gave me medical school, at least. And the next important exam after SPM would be all the exams I took in medical school…because without passing those exams, I would not be a doctor. The MRCPsych exam I will be facing this year is also important, but it is not as full of pressure as the ones in SPM or med school. I took this exam using my own money. I don’t want the pressure of being bonded by a scholarship. And therefore, Alhamdulillah I don’t have another financial debt heaped on me. If I fail, I only fail myself and lost some money that I could collect again with the next salary. I don’t disappoint anyone else such as MARA or my parents or even my colleagues  (since I was forced to use my own cuti rehat for this when all these while I have been covering the unrecorded leaves of many master students in the past) Life is not fair but we move on. That’s life.)

So in the larger scheme of things, UPSR or PMR/PT3 is not important. (SPM is important, though, especially if you want to continue your tertiary education into the university and be eligible for scholarships. Otherwise you will have to apply for PTPTN and that means you will get a financial burden even before you can be assured that you can get a job in the future.Nowadays, even medical students are not guaranteed a job). 

Just don’t go around telling people that “Ah….number of As don’t matter. It’s your knowledge acquisition that matters.” I am one of those people who would roll my eyes and said to myself, “Yes, sure. Believe whatever makes you feel good about yourself.”

Passing exam matters. But only up to a point. Just like I won’t commit suicide if I don’t pass my exam, I also would not trivialize the matter as though it means nothing. It means something.

But ONLY something.

NOT everything. NEVER everything.

(And that’s what you should teach your kids! Stop with the “Number of As don’t matter crap”. Deep inside, no one believes it. And I am just a straight talker and calling a spade a spade.)

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