THE recent announcement of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination results is, as ever, a good illustration of how stressful schooling and testing have become. Broken-hearted children sobbing inconsolably over slightly-less-than-stellar results has, unfortunately, become as much the norm as sights of jubilation by those who achieved perfect scores. But it has ever been thus, albeit the stakes are higher now. While, a generation or two ago, a high grade score was crucial in earning a scholarship to attend university, today, a perfect score buys a student the merest chance of getting a place at a good university.
With competition being that much tougher, little wonder then that the weight and worth of examinations have become greater. How one performs at age 12 will determine which secondary school one goes to, its quality of teachers and its culture of excellence (or the lack of it). This then determines whether or not one does well at secondary school, which is a determinant of whether one is able to go to university. So, for 12-year-olds who understand well the concept of delayed gratification, the UPSR can be both a wonderful and terrifying thing; which is why less-than-perfect results can feel very much like the end of the world.
This does not mean that examinations are a bad thing. It is important for children to learn the value of hard work, whether in the academic field or outside of it. It is important for children to learn to set goals and focus on achieving these goals. It would be quite wrong for parents to not bring up their children to work for anything, because, eventually, they will have to go out into the world, earn a living and make their own way in life.
But it is equally important for children to learn to deal with failure and disappointment, and occasionally to eat humble pie. It is healthy for children to discover that they are not the only ones in the world and that, often, their best efforts won’t necessarily get them the reward they desire. Tests of any kind are a good way to discover one’s true potential and pushing oneself to the limit will reveal the extent of one’s abilities. Knowing this is important for learning to accept and work within one’s limitations. A parent’s job, therefore, is not to ensure that children get good results but rather, it is to help the children to know more about themselves, to discover their potential, to work to their best abilities, to be strong when the weather is good, to be even stronger when dark clouds mar the sky, and to be prepared for any test life throws their way.