When I was back in Penang last weekend I had the chance to catch up with family and also with some old memories. While going through the stuff in my room I came across this.
My secondary school report card!
Now let me first tell you a bit about my secondary school life. I did Form 1 in Sekolah Sri Inai in Penang, one of the few coed schools in Penang. Yes believe it or not, most of Penang's secondary schools weren't coed.
Just like in Primary school, I did terribly in Form 1 failing some 5 out of 13 or so subjects that I took. To make matters worse, I was 13 and my hormones had started to kick in. I had began to start learning that I like girls so I got myself a girlfriend at age 13 and did a lot less studying.
I was so PDA with this girlfriend in school I remember once being called up to the Principle's office where he and another female teacher talked to my girlfriend at the time and I about sex and how it's a bad thing!
Back then my girlfriend at the time and I were too young to think about sex so we were like "Are they crazy?"
Yes.. it was still the time where whenever someone in class mentioned the S word, everyone else would go "EWWWwwwwwww!!!". Such a big contrast right? Just 5 years later in college if someone were to mention "sex" in class, everyone instead would go "WOOOOoooo!!!"
Anyway my worried parents decided to drag me out of Sri Inai and throw me into a boy school called St. Xaviers Institution where I spent my Form 2 till Form 5.
I remember being sad in the first day of school. No more girls dressed in light blue pinafores... just all guys dressed in white shirts and dark green pants. It felt as if someone had taken away my mojo.
They streamed classes in St. Xaviers. To put it bluntly, they put the smart people in 1 and the dumb people in 8.
I expected to be put in 2/1 or 2/2 which were the top two classes for form 2 but I ended up in 2/5.... a not so smart class.
At first I still didn't really care.
This is how seriously I actually took my studies: On the first page of my report card we were all supposed to put a picture of how we look like when we first entered the school. This is how my picture looks like (with some help from a friend's artistic talents).
Yes.... we added on the red glasses to make me look like Cyclops from X-Men. By some miracle I never got rotanned for this.
Anyway, after a while I realized that I was actually quite stupid and for the first time in my life I started actually studying. You can actually see the gradual improvements in my grades right in my report card from Form 2 onwards.
You're all about to see Timothy Tiah's actual secondary school report card!
This is the results of the first test I ever took when I first entered Form 2.
Notice that I failed Geography. Seriously.... I mean that was such a terrible subject in school. Also notice that I got 44 for Pendidikan Seni. When Princess saw that she said "HAH!!! Figures!" remembering the drawings in my old scout log book.
What she didn't know was that while you think 44 might be a bad mark for Art, I actually was supposed to get a lot lower. 30% of the grade for Pendidikan Seni was theory and 70% on practical (that means actual drawing).
For theory I would get something good like 25 out of 30.... but my Practical was a pityful ase. I would end up getting something like 19/70 which explains why my marks were so low.
A few pages down the report card is where it gets interesting.
There's one full page that records down the marks for each years' mid-term and final exams (the most two important exams in the year).
This sheet also shows what rank you are in class and in the entire form.
Pay attention to the ranks first.
In Form 2 I got between 96-130 out of 286 students in the form.
In Form 3 I climbed up from there to 62-81 out of 283.
By the end of Form 3 I was an okay student. Not particularly bright but not stupid either. I got 5As for my PMR which was considered above average but not smart because I think something like 60 out of the 283 students from my school who sat in PMR my year got straight As.
Then Form 4 came and it was time to split us into streams. Against the will of my school counsellor I went into Arts Stream. For some reason even up till today I think, if you're smart you're supposed to go to Science Stream. I refused to go simply because I knew then that I didn't want to be an engineer, a doctor or anything along those lines so why go Science?
Besides I wanted to learn Commerce and Literature as opposed to Biology and I felt kinda assured because a few of the top guys in the form back then who were also my role models were also going into the Arts Stream so I knew that I had some smarter people to teach me if I didn't know anything.
The first exam I had in Arts Stream was a disaster... not just for me but for everyone! We just had some really bad teachers for some of the classes we had.
For example, it was the first year learning Prinsip Akaun and all the Arts classes were taught by one very very very very very very bad teacher. I mean he was a nice teacher... but just really really bad at teaching.
After the mid-term exams we all ended up with totally shit results. I remember the highest in the form for Prinsip Akaun that time to be something like 70. I got 17. Look at the bright red mark in the picture.
So my mum panicked when she saw my Prinsip Akaun mark and forced me into going for this tuition. By the end of the year, I went from 17 to 96 in Prinsip Akaun.
The joke was that even with an average of 65.9% I ended up getting 2nd place out of 154 in my Arts Stream (partly because everyone else did shit too).
When Princess saw that she was like
"WTF?!?!? How come your school standard so low wan!!!!"
I told her off
"WOI!!! Don't talk bad about my school! St. Xaviers if I may add is one of the Top 3 boy schools in Penang!!!" *defensive
Then Form 5 came and for the first time in my life I became the 1st in my Form (Arts Stream) with an average mark of 79%. I think the huge jump in the average mark was explained by making the exams a lot easier after they killed us with the ones in Form 4.
Again Princess went
"What?!?!? First in the form so low average wan?!?!"
And I defended my Alma Mater again!
Then she looked deeper into my grades and she saw something amiss
"How come your marks all so high but your average mark in the end still so low?"
Then she spotted the mark that dragged me down
"WTF?!?!? HOW CAN YOU GET 61 FOR MODERN MATHS!!!"
But that it was true.
While I studied very hard and did well in Form 4 and Form 5 there were two subjects that I struggled with because I had a very weak foundation in (thanks to my not studying at all in my earlier school years): Mathematics and BM. I eventually got an A1 in SPM for Modern maths and even an A for A-level maths in college but my BM till today still isn't as good as it should be =(
Anyway the last exam I took in school which was the SPM trial exam, I lost my position as the 1st in the Form down to getting 3rd. Either ways I eventually did pretty well in SPM which helped me get into a good college and eventually uni.
Here's what I think about education though. I don't believe in academic results being able to help us tell who's smart and who's not. I believe that it does help us generalize people but that generalization comes with a loss of accuracy. I mean every study or course is one methodology of its own to try to figure out if you're smart or not. The problem with that is that all human beings are made to be different so while some may do well in exam A, they may not do well in exam B while others may.
That explains why you have so many people like Richard Branson or Philip Green who didn't do very well in school but are self-made billionaires today.
Closer to home you have examples like Ron Sim of Osim or many other successful entrepreneurs or professionals that never were really good in studies at school but have done well for themselves in life. So I guess if you hate studying or if you're not very good at it, it's not the end...
That's at least what I was thinking while I sat down pondering about life that day.
I think making it in life depends on a lot more than just what kind of grades you got in school. For me I think luck plays a big part... which is why I think I'm one of the luckiest people around.