I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but never had actually any motivation to write here, until I watch a certain video by a certain sister of a certain artist in Malaysia, talking about some things, including the differences between international schools and government schools.
And, of course, being Malaysians, we can’t wait to bash out people and criticize people for giving their opinions without stopping to think about what they’re talking, even if it’s partly true.
As someone who has attended both government school and international school, here’s my two cents.
[a little background about me in case you don’t already know me before. I attended Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya from Form 1 until Form 3, and in 2010, I transferred to Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar in Negeri Sembilan where I sat for my SPM (not IGCSEs) and part of my A-Levels before I decided to drop out of A-Levels. The reason I transferred out from SSP to KTJ was because my mother thought it would be a good idea for me to learn and mix around with students from different backgrounds and nationalities, which is one of the things the said person above mentioned in her video. Note that even though I attended a private international school, I am by no means from a ‘wealthy’ family like the said person, I was lucky enough to secure a scholarship from the school so that my tuition fees was free for the whole two years of SPM.]
Also, note that whatever I’m writing and saying here is, like the said person said in the video, is from my own experiences and opinion, and by no means whatsoever is this the fact for every bloody school out there in Malaysia, be it international or government.
If we’re comparing the teachers from both schools I’ve attended, I think both schools excel at it.
My SSP teachers were awesome; they were the ones who help shaped me in my younger years, they helped me find my passion for writing, they taught me responsibility and they cared for me. Even now, 6 years after I left SSP, I still go to visit them at least once a year. They were my mothers when I was in school. They took care of me. Once, one of my wardens took me to the clinic in her own car because I was super sick and even though there was no official trip to the clinic/hospital, she took me out by herself so that I could go see a doctor. Another warden who I was close to was super cool and fun that she would keep my phone safe [we were not allowed to bring our phones to school] so that I could use it at the end of the semester when I need to. And heck, it’s been ages since I left SSP, but they still welcome me back home whenever I go to visit during summer, and they still remember me despite the hundreds of students they teach.
My KTJ teachers were, well, they taught me a lot of things. They taught me things outside of the class that I would cherish. I was close to different teachers for a bunch of different reasons, like the teacher for our Malay dance club. I was also close to some teachers who have never taught me at all, like our discipline teacher (current vice principal, I believe?). Heck, he was strict as hell with everyone in the school, and kept giving people detentions and all. But for me, even though I was never in any of his classes (he only teaches the international stream classes), he wrote me a super nice recommendation letter when I left, so that I could use it when I was applying for scholarships and universities and stuff. And if there’s one thing that I can say I’ve learnt from my teachers in KTJ is that I need to be independent, learn to make my own choices based on what I like to do.
I respect my teachers, both in SSP and in KTJ. I don’t believe that “teachers at international schools are more qualified than in government schools”. Sure, an international school teacher might have more international experience than those in government schools. But dude, SSP teachers are bringing students to visit Istanbul and Indonesia and the United States. Government schools might not be as well of as international schools, but they’re working on exposing them to a variety of things slowly.
(I’m losing my flow of thoughts, sorry)
But if I were to only consider my SPM years in KTJ (and not thinking about my A-Levels months there), I think that sitting for my SPM in a private international school was a big mistake. Why did I say so?
I had close to thirty students in my SPM batch in KTJ. THIRTY. For a whole bloody batch of SPM. (well, that figures, since most people go to international school to do IGCSEs, so yeah).
In SSP, there would probably be thirty or so students in a class, and there’s six classes for every batch (P, U, T, E, R, I, geddit? lewl). That makes up around between 170-180 students per batch, give or take.
And my SPM batch in KTJ during my time? Let’s just say that it was the worst SPM batch in the history of KTJ (20-21 years old as of 2011, my SPM year).
Despite my teachers trying their best to get my classmates interested in the lessons or even to get them to try and make an effort, it was just useless. They were simply, not. (I can’t think of a better way to explain this, so I’m not going to try). Let’s just say that for simplicity, my teachers gave up on them.
And I almost gave up myself. I mean, while I won’t say that I enjoy studying for the sake of getting 9A’s for SPM, I certainly do not want my classes to be disturbed by people doing *** acts in the class or making extremely rude and loud noises. Heck, my two years of SPM in KTJ were probably two of the most excruciatingly annoying years of my life. And living with three brothers can be pretty annoying too, so that’s that.
But life in school outside my classes, I pretty much could survive in KTJ thanks to the people I met. My basketball and netball teams, my dancing crew, my housemates. Heck, obviously the living conditions in an international school outrun the conditions in SSP by hundreds of miles. Boarding fees cost RM7-8k alone for a semester, so obviously that comes with perks like having an air-conditioned room, good food (siap boleh pilih nak Asian or Western food every time makan kot), good facilities and, yes, ‘clean toilets’ (but heck selalu je ada orang pergi berak tak reti nak flush pastu flood-kan cubicle tu macam shit je lol geddit).
That doesn’t mean living conditions in SSP was bad. Tbh, I kind of miss running to the toilets and ‘booking’ all the cubicles so that I don’t have to wait long to shower in the morning. I kind of miss having to sweep the floor every morning and making sure that same-as-everybody’s-bedspread is tucked tightly under the bed. I miss showering in the dark whenever the light’s out and I certainly miss washing my laundry by hand and hanging it to dry. For what it’s worth, it was all part and parcel of life, and it taught me to be grateful for the things that I have now.
I’m sorry. I’m straying away from my main point in this blog post. -.-
The thing is, experiences differ with people. What I experienced from my time in SSP and KTJ would be different from what my friend experienced, even though she did exactly what I did (three years in SSP and then transferring to KTJ for Form 4. but she did the IGCSEs track though). What you experience from a place (a school, college, or life, even) ultimately depends on what you put into it.
In SSP, I put most of my time and passion in my basketball, and that was the highlight of my time there. My basketball team was my family, my sole reason I stuck through SSP despite the problems I was having with my friends.
In KTJ, I spent most of my time with my seniors, learning from them about life, about changes, about hard work and perseverance, about friendship. Without them, my KTJ life would be empty.
You could pay thousands of dollars (or ringgits) to attend the number 1 private international school in the world, but if you yourself don’t put any effort in, you wouldn’t be able to get anything out from it.
Make use of the time you are there, and you will learn something out of it, hopefully.
Miss Khan also brought up a good point in her video, which most people overlooked, as always with Malaysians and their tendency to focus on one small tiny ant across the bloody ocean instead of the huge-as-f* elephant standing right in front of them.
She talked about Education, and how education is Malaysia is heavily focused on ‘passing the tests and exams‘ instead of really understanding and learning something new
Take SPM for example. Can you tell me what the cutoff points for an A+ for SPM is for the last five years?
You can’t. And why is that? The cutoff points changes every year, and heck, because of this ‘changes’, you can’t really see how these students are really doing. Who knows, maybe the cutoff points for an A+ is a 70, just so the government can say, “Oh, we’re producing more 9A+ students this year. We’re such a good country with a good education system. Our kids are getting brighter and smarter every year.“?
We’re also in a situation where students in the science stream are regarded as “smart”, while those in the arts stream are considered “not-as-smart”. The arts stream is considered as a back-up option, in case everything does not go according to plan. The science stream students are considered as “geniuses”, and those who scored 9A+’s are expected to continue in the science stream, or more specifically, in the Medicine field, because “Kau pandai kan, dapat 9A+ kan, kenapa tak nak sambung Medic? Bagus tu Medic.”
Uh, no. Sorry.
And then we have categorizations based on where you go to school, or where you did your degree or pre-uni to what you actually pursue.
“Oh, budak Maahad eh, bagusnya.“
“Ala, budak Vokasional je, ciput je tu.“
“Kau budak Engineering eh, mesti pandai eh kau.“
“Apa? Kau belajar English Literature? Tak dapat offer lain ke?“
Education is no longer viewed as a journey for self-enlightenment, for self-enrichment. It is considered as a race. A race to be the top scorer. A race to have the most glamour-est degree in your hand from the most prestigious university. A race to get that sought-after scholarship. A race to show to everyone that “Hah! In your face! I am better than you!“
Is this what education really is?
Is this what’s important in our life?
Is this what we’re teaching to the next generation, instead of supporting them and pushing them to strive harder in life?
Being a teacher is a noble profession, and I respect those who have been in this profession for years. I’m only 21, and I’ve been playing my part as an education consultant (so-called consultant lol more like advisor-shit kind of things) online to SPM leavers, and what I can say is that teachers have so much patience in them, more than I can possibly imagine after all the annoying things I’ve been though in the little things that I do.
So, Miss Khan, I challenge you to make a difference in Malaysia. If you feel like education in Malaysia, or in government schools, are not good enough and needs to be change, I challenge you to make the difference.
In fact, I challenge all of you who is reading this now. Make a difference in Malaysia. However big or small, just make a difference. A good one, that is. People do say that if you don’t like something, you either go and change it, or change how you feel about it. So I challenge you, instead of sitting in front of your computer screens and bashing out at people who voice out their opinions, go make a change in the world.
Sorry, again. Different thoughts coming in at different times, which is why you get all the breaks in the post. I apologize for that.
As I’ve written in the start, whatever’s written here is from my own opinions and thoughts and experiences, and may or may not be the same as yours. Let’s agree to disagree, shall we?
Alright. Better be off. Stay awesome peeps.