Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Malaysians Aren't Intelligent At All

Written by johnleemk on 1:52:07 pm Apr 2, 2007.
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Jared Ee, an intelligent blogger who was introduced to me through R.A.N.D.T.S. (Random Articulations: Nothing Different, Told Simply), has a very interesting question for Malaysians: How Intelligent are You?

Throughout his post, he articulates the same frustrations any bright and talented but stifled student in our public school system undergoes. He regrets that our newspapers lend coverage to straight A scorers who have done nothing for the country or the world:

The deification of these ‘extraordinary’ people sickens me to the core. Do you consider them good role models? To me, good role models are people who’ve contributed to the betterment of mankind. Just how ‘those people’ fit in with that equation, I don’t know.

Jared concludes:

We are in dire need of an education system that encourages creative thought and innovative applications of knowledge, cultivates other valuable 'soft skills' and focuses on well-rounded, holistic development: physically, emotionally and intellectually. Either that, or we condemn our future generations to a lifetime of ineptitude and inability to compete.

So now, tell me... just how intelligent are you?

The truth is, Jared, Malaysians aren't intelligent at all. Or, rather, we do not recognise intelligence when we see it. After all, look at the top scorers in our country. After one or two years, where have these people ended up?

I do not see any of them in the Ivy League. Nor have I heard of any of them gaining entrance to Oxbridge, or any other world-class elite institutions. Our examination system is supposed to recognise intelligence, and yet it's clearly produced an immense number of false positives.

It also has a terrifying number of false negatives. Of all the Malaysians I know who have ended up in universities like Harvard, not a single one of them was a "top scorer" who had media coverage lavished on them. Just as bad, many other Malaysians who gain entrance to such universities have dumped our education system altogether, being snapped up by Singapore through its ASEAN scholarship, or having attended international schools.

Our education system does not recognise intelligence. If the same system supposed to produce and recognise intelligent people can't do that at all, if it's incapable of isolating the cream of the crop, how can we call ourselves intelligent? If there are intelligent Malaysians at all, it's in spite of, not because of the system.

And as Jared has also taken note of before, we're quite good at producing idiots, if how our society regards examination results is anything to go by:

And one more thing, if you write this off as the rantings of a student who obtained less-than-satisfactory results, you’re right. I got 1 B3 out of 11 subjects.

By the standards set by our society and government, I am a failure. A FUCKING failure with a capital F. Yes, I am. And you FUCKING know it too.

I can more than relate to his plight. After all, if he is a fucking failure with a capital F, I dare not imagine what I should call myself. My official tally for the SPM is 100% failure, since I dropped out before I could sit for it. For the PMR, I scored 4As and 3Bs. I should probably have jumped into Tasik Chini rather than wasting our country's oxygen.

Jared ponders:

I can’t wait for the next SPM. What’s next, 23? Everything? I’ll be hearing about subjects I never even knew existed.

I can easily imagine what's going to happen next. We will subdivide history into the history of our 13 states and three federal territories. Our geography will similarly be divided. For mathematics, we will have separate subjects for algebra, geometry, trigonometry, integration, differentiation, and so forth. We needn't stop at subdividing science into physics, biology and chemistry. Maybe one day we can proudly proclaim our children scored 200As.

I wish there was more I could say for now about how "successful" our education system has been at evaluating actual accomplishments. But there isn't anything I can say. Not when Jared has said it so well:

If you draw inspiration from students like Nur Amalina, you’re idolizing the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. Yeah sure, she’s got the time management skills, she’s got the co-curricular achievements and all. But 17 subjects?! How many of those will you use in later life, when you go into the job market?

Tell you what: come over to varsity life. Take up every course you can. Don’t complain, it's been done before! Yeah, lots of students have done it! Why stop at SPM? Go on straight to university or college and pull off the feat again! Show us what you’re made of! Better still, do it for your MBA or PhD! Malaysian students will be kings and queens of the world! The most SUCCESSFUL! The most INTELLIGENT! The most every-other-crap you people would have us believe.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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