Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Extracurricular Activities Again, Plus Academics and Education Expenditure

Written by johnleemk on 6:00:39 am Apr 7, 2007.

After pointing out that there is far from an equality of opportunity in the local public education system, I received another reply again from joshvinder:

'Assistant Troop Leader of my school's junior Scout troop'

'Patrol Leader of the Semi-Senior patrol.'
' helped design my school's website, '

'public speaking at science week????

no offence, but as I try to remember, during my school days these activities are joined by nerds, supernerds.....not smart nerds but the 'average nerd'

almost anyone can achieve these, even with a half brain, no offence

to name some of my achievements

1. President of the English Society
2. Runners-up, English parlimentary debate, state level.
3. School prefect( had to resign in form 4 because I leaked some sejarah exam papers!)
4. Vice President of the Supernatural Club
5. Merentas Desa, 9th, district level

dan lain-lain

I'm from no prominent school., I'm from negeri sembilan, and pls, i'm not from seremban, i'm from a small school in Tampin, if u ever heard of that district name.....

how many straight A scorers have distinguished themselves by gaining entrance to the Ivy League universities or Oxbridge?

I'm currently doing my alevels, I got offers from many prominent, A list British Universities such as LSE... I know more than 10 Oxbridge student that are from national schools(1 or 2 years senior than me) from elite and and non-elite national schools)..
When I went for my Oxford interview, I met many malaysians, FROM NATIONAL schools again, they also hold offers from other A list British Universities

It is impossible for all national school students who have a string of A's to get addmission into Oxbridge.. they have their set of quotas, but let me tell you, our national school students are doing quite well locally and abroad despite the National Schools...

'''because with the few dozen billion or so ringgit the government earns every year from Petronas alone, we could probably train and pay thousands of brilliant teachers, and revamp our education system'''

This words is definitly a product from a thoughtless mind.... get a economics book and understand the meaning of allocation of resources, and opportunity cost... If all petronas and government funds is channelled just for education, then we can forget\
1.petrol subsidy
2.electric subsidy
3.infrastructure development
governments main objectives are
1. low inflation
2.low unemployment
3. balance of trade
4. stable exchange rates
5. equity

education is a small part(but I would say significant part) of government policies... allocatiing too much of resources to education would bring a new set of problems which I would not want to discuss here.. thankyou

The point I was trying to make has probably been obscured, but the main reason that I listed those activities was to illustrate the real lack of opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities in a typical public school. The examples joshvinder has provided are really the perfect contrast.

Think about it for a moment. Why didn't I join my school's debating team? Because my school didn't have one. That's why. Why wasn't I Vice-President of something like the Supernatural Club? Again, because my school didn't have one.

I could have tried to form a debating club, or a web design club, or a club for something else I'm interested in. But I didn't, because I knew very well that my school doesn't tolerate initiatives from students. Teachers, yes, parents, maybe, but not students. Every time my friends and I tried to do something original, we were stifled by the administration.

The reason I have such a "nerdy" and terrible CV is simply because I never had the kind of opportunities that the elite have. That's the point being made — that the reason I am such a loser is not because I don't have the potential, but because the normal public school stifles actualisation of that potential. (And as an aside, I didn't know being Assistant Troop Leader of a Scout troop was something "nerdy"...guess you learn something new everyday.)

Also, as I believe I've mentioned before, it's not only the ultra-elite schools that I'm talking about. I'm talking about any above average public school. In the Klang Valley, such schools include schools like SMK Damansara Utama and SMK Damansara Jaya — they're not elite by any means, but they are definitely much, much better than the typical public school.

I didn't go to an atypical public school as far as I can tell, because many people I know from other public schools in my area (obviously excepting schools like SMKDJ and SMKDU) have had similar experiences when it comes to both curricular and extracurricular activities.

It seems that joshvinder has also been fortunate enough to attend an above average public school — it may be a little in the hulu, but it's clearly not in the norm. The normal school does not have a debating team that is runners-up at the state level, nor does it have clubs such as the "Supernatural Club". And, of course, the normal school does not exactly send students to places like the London School of Economics or Oxbridge.

Moving on to the subject of academic achievement, I've never suggested that you're an idiot if you can score straight As. The point, rather, is that the scoring system creates a lot of false positives, as evinced by the fact that (as far as I know) virtually none of the "top scorers" featured in the media have gained admission to top universities worldwide. Even the most intelligent students I have had the pleasure to know, as measured on the Malaysian A1 scale, don't have a stellar record — most have at least one A2 or B3.

The fact is, if you are scoring straight A1s, you might be intelligent — but so far, most straight A1 scorers have not been able to gain admission to the top universities in the world. Nobody is denying that we have a lot of brilliant students in Malaysia — but how many of these brilliant students are recognised as the cream of the crop? Most that I know don't have straight A1s.

Moreover, the real fault of the education system is that to get straight A1s in the first place, the necessary prerequisite is memorisation of facts, rather than knowledge of how to apply them. I've found that in the O- and A-Levels, for example, it's possible to get by with memorisation, but it's equally possible (if not even more so) to succeed with understanding and application. The same can't be said for our education system.

Finally, to the economy. joshvinder's articulation of economic principles is ironically an example of the emphasis on rote memorisation that most Malaysian students carry on into their A-Levels and beyond. How would devoting all government revenue from petroleum to investment in education affect the "government's main objectives" of keeping inflation and unemployment low? How would it affect the balance of trade negatively, or upset the exchange rate? How would it disturb equity? I don't see the logic — it's just not here.

Moreover, the brief discussion of subsidies for energy clearly shows that joshvinder hasn't appreciated the problems of market failure enough — petroleum and other sources of energy which impose social costs should be taxed, not subsidised. Diverting petroleum revenue away from subsidies which harm the economy by exacerbating negative externalities to investment in education will result in the production possibility curve of the economy shifting outward. (Or, in layman's parlance, the economy will grow.)

The point about infrastructure development is a valid one, except for the fact that I wasn't suggesting that we should spend all petroleum revenue on education. I was just saying that we could, and that it would be a much better use of our money than on frivolous things like the Petronas Twin Towers.

In any case, petroleum revenue should not be used at all for frivolous things like subsidies — petroleum revenue is a temporary gift, not a permanent blessing. Being a non-renewable resource, petroleum cannot and should not be relied on by a society. It should not be a crutch for things like subsidies — it should be used as a stepping-stone for new opportunities, and that's why we are much better off spending our short-term blessings on long-term investments in things like education.

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