Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life is full of examinations

Yes, life is full of examinations. I am refering to those academic examinations that one has to go through to get to where one wants to be. I am sure you too have to subject yourself to these at times mundane barriers that do not really contribute to the quality of life that you may well desire. No doubt about it, some examinations are needed to put you where you are. But they are just examinations and they do not really portray your real ability.

Many prominent personalities could not be bothered with some of these examinations - a few of them had not gone through any examination at all. But they were/are captains of the industries. Bill Gate, Honda, Lim Goh Tong, Syed Mokhtar, Loh Boon Siew...( and the list can go on and on) are the few names that everyone knows. Of course, not many will be able to achieve what they have/had achieved. But it proves a point that to be successful, one does not have to slog through the academic barries in the name of examinations. You are not a failure if you are unable to pass through these barriers. Why then so many took or are thinking of taking their lives just because they failed/expect to fail in those examinations that they were/are forced to go through. Again , most unfortunately, parents too will have to go through the heartache and mental toture just because their siblings did not do well in examinations. It is idiotic that the society tend to treat the failures as pariahs.

Let me relate to you how I had to go through this ordeal. Nothing to be proud of though. After going through so many examinations I am still a relatively poor man, struggling to live on.

The first hurdle was a Special Malay Entrance Examination way back in 1958. Out of a cohort of around 60 students averaging 9 years of age in a dilipidated kampung Malay primary school, only 2 of us managed to pass through. I barely made it. My classmate, one by the name of Sharifuddin must have done well to be admitted to a better "English Primary School". After three years in a primary English school, I had to go through yet another examination - the Secondary Entrance Examination- just to be able to go on to a secondarty school. A number of my classmates failed and they were shown the door. I again barely made it. What do you expect? Coming from a poor background with less energy in your body due to the hardship, woke up very early in the mornings to sell cakes before rushing off [I mean walking all the way] to the school - a good 6 kilometers away, didn't have proper books and didn't have a single sen at times in your pocket... what do you expect? But I made it.

Again, three years thereafter, there was another one- the Lower Certificate of Education. I did slightly better, but a number of my classmates who failed, had to go. Cruel isn't it? Two years thereafter came the most important barrier in my life - the Cambridge School Certificate. I almost achieved a first division if not for the English language. I didn't get the essential credit, pulling my cumulative units down by a mere 2 points. Until today I don't understand why I failed to get a credit in the subject that I always excel. I thought I did very well in it. Probably there was a mistake in recording the score as I found out that a fellow with a name immediately after mine [and he stammers (until now!)... gosh how on earth did he get through the oral test, being part of the English paper] got a distinction in English despite the fact that he was in a very weak class. Probably he deserved it. But I can't believe that I couldn't even obtain a C6 - the lowest in the credit category. Agony. But that was what examinations are all about! Those days no one told you that you could ask for a review! Even if I knew, I could not afford to pay the fee then. Que sera sera!

To cut the story short, I passed in 3 more examinations before I obtained a full Higher School Certificate after "wasting" my time in the sixth forms [lower and upper]. You see after the agony, I decided to seek a job but my dear teacher, the late Mr Chin Chow Kee insisted that I kept on going. But I have no regrets though. Thank you Sir!

There were no fewer than 6 more examinations that I had to go through [in the universities, of course], including the biggest one - a doctoral viva- before I ended up as a PhD holder. In between there were a number of examinations to get confirmed in your job and elevated to a higher one plus those that allowed you to be a professional.

I am examinations crazy man! So much so that I feel the emptiness if I don't participate in examinations! I am addicted to examinations. The system and society made me an addict. Right now I am thinking of pursuing a law degree - more examinations. Ariva! Ariva!

What do I get from all these? A struggling old man, conned by many [in my pursuit to be an entrepreneur], no retirement benefits, no house, not enough money to support my children who should be in the universities still.

But I believe there are "hikmahs" or blessings behind all these. I harbour a dream. One day I will be compensated ... with what? At this age you still have a dream? Nope, it is a nightmare, pure and simple when you realise that others at your age have retired! Anyway, life must go on. Never give up!!! Dream, dream, dream [of examinations? Yeah can't live without them!]

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