I’m Not Stupid, Just A Little Less Smart

Get good grades in school, get a scholarship, get into university, graduate, get a high salary job, build a house by a lake, let Mom and Dad move in with me, live happily ever after. That was my ultimate goal in life. Absolutely focused, and simplistic. It was not an impossible dream. I was top in school. I didn’t play sports, but I was an active Cub Scout.

But Little Me didn’t know that tertiary education drains you of whatever funds you have, and it definitely is a hurdle to get into an institution, what more, a scholarship.

I got distracted halfway, and distractions are not permitted in a system where conformity is compulsory. The restrictive manner of learning which is practised requires thinking ‘in the box’ whereas what is really needed is creative thinking where students are allowed to expound on pre-existing and new ideas. Many times I had been chided by peers to stop thinking ‘too far’ from a topic. Where’s the application? I’d ask. How is this mathematical theory useful to people? But I’ve been told to just learn it up, memorise it; there isn’t any point in knowing the why’s and how’s.

In this maddening race to snag A grades, I just fell out because of the need for logic. I couldn’t cram formulae into my head if I didn’t understand concepts. It wasn’t because I didn’t know. I did. I watched programmes on engineering and science, and I could put the two and two together. When crime show characters on the telly talked science or math jargon, heck, I understood. But, the system was suffocating. And yes, I let it beat me.

So I didn’t get the results I should have. I’m facing difficulty securing a place in universities, while my peers are receiving golden tickets. Congrats, guys! They deserve it, and I’m sincerely happy for them.

Regarding entry in Malaysian public universities, I see the need for the process to be transparent. But that would be difficult in a country where quotas are placed before merit. Most people are in the dark about public university applications, so, let me shed some light on this:

To apply, students (5th or 6th Formers) have to purchase a 10 or 15 MYR PIN number from Bank Simpanan Nasional (National Savings Bank). The whole process is completed online on the Ministry of Higher Education’s web portal, with the applicants forwarding their personal information, examination results, co-curricular grade (which can be ‘amplified’), and courses of choice.

Thus, the selection is entirely examination result-based, with no consideration of the applicant’s communicative skills or other exceptional talent or ability. (Getting an A in English in Malaysia does not guarantee adeptness in the language.) It would be safe to say that the co-curricular grade barely contributes to the selection process.

Ironically, the Vice-Chancellor of the university which denied my application for English studies presented me my MUET award.

As much as I dream of England, it would be wise to leave that dream on a back burner. So where does it leave me? Definitely in a sea of applications to private institutions who are ready to slice the bottom of my money sack. Oh, and with a bag of chips, crime shows on the telly, and The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done played on rewind.

When there’s nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
One more son
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on..

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no

Help me out
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the backburner
You know you got to help me out.


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