How fear of failure is killing young Malaysians

By Hafidz Baharom

A kid recently committed suicide for failing to answer questions in the SPM Additional Maths paper and subsequently believed he would no longer be able to care for his mother, who he wanted to get perfect grades in order to make her proud by caring for her.

Many more kids will feel depressed and give up come the announcement of the results by next year. And some will see it as a failure worthy of killing themselves or even giving up altogether from furthering their studies.

We are always told how failure is just another milestone in life, a learning experience to go through, or even something we should all dare to do on a regular basis. Case in point, I do believe the writer of the “Dare To Fail” book is still running as an independent parliamentary candidate to this day.

Okay, SPM leavers. First off, congratulations for getting over the exam but know this. The SPM is not a measure of how smart or bangang someone is. It is a measure of how well you know and understand what you have been taught for two years.

And personally, if you do feel stupid when you get your results, I just ask you to read the news of all the quotes coming from all our ministers — yeah, those are the guys supposedly with perfect grades.

I can personally assure you it doesn’t help much when someone gets a 3.84 GPA but cooks with an aerosol can next to the stove whilst smiling like a moron.

I’m getting sidetracked by politics like a typical Malaysian, so I’ll get back to it.

Yes. Your results will trigger an emotional reaction. Some of you will be happy enough to conjure a Patronus.

Some will be grateful to God, and some will be willing to accept the results with an open heart. But there will be those so depressed they start wondering if the fan can hold their body weight if they hanged themselves using bed sheets.

This is a very cynical picture to paint, but we all went through the entire cycle not only with the SPM, but through matriculation, semester examinations and even thesis presentations. Of course I can laugh and talk about it now because it has been 15 years and I have honestly become that grumpy, cynical 32-year-old.

But back then after getting my results, I was a sobbing blubbering mess. A similar reaction can be found by prolonged exposure to music by Adele or Death Cab for Cutie, or if someone keeps playing A Great Big World’s “Say Something” on repeat.

Now, the biggest reason these thoughts go through your head is because you feel “you let yourselves down”, as many adults, parents and even future bosses will point out often. But it is also because there is a feeling of shame in failure and guilt in being a burden.

It is also because you get stuck in comparing yourself with the Joneses, insisting on comparing results and even wealth as you grow up with friends, cousins and even the douchey neighbours’ kids you never even liked to begin with.

It is because failure in obtaining good results somehow shatters the dream of you wanting to help your parents with brilliant results opening better opportunities and subsequently being able to care for them in their later days.

There are so many reasons for Malaysians to think they are not good enough, to the point that sometimes we just want to jump off a cliff or the Penang bridge.

Failure to please, failure to earn enough to make a living, believing we are burdening the ones we love, bullying, cyber bullying and even being ridiculed to the point of depression or even suicide is becoming a global trend.

In the last salary and wages report in 2014, we officially have 5.4 million Malaysians in the workforce with only secondary school qualifications, 3.8 million of whom are SPM leavers. While the government can deal with issue of opportunity, we need to take a serious look at addressing the mindset of kids who do not get the results they wish for.

According to a piece on Bernama, 440,682 students took the examinations this year. The number of straight A students last year was only 2.63 per cent. If this maintains in 2015, only 11,146 students will get perfect, all A’s results while the rest will find themselves with less than perfect.

We need to address the psyche and stigma over failing in whatever sense of the word that the younger generation believes, not us.

And while we need to thoroughly discuss how to keep kids in school all the way up to getting a degree, we must also motivate them enough, have the tools and understanding to ensure their mental stability in maintaining the mindset necessary for their greatest exam; life.

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