Last year when Zareef officially became a Year 1 student, he had to sit for an aptitude test on the third day of school. The aptitude test consisted of Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mathematics questions. The reason for the aptitude test was to rate student's proficiency on those three subjects mentioned. Students with the highest total score will be placed in the first class and so on for the purpose of streamlining.
Zareef being the laid-back guy and with a couldn't care less attitude wasn't worried at all. I'd be lying to say if I weren't. Well, I didn't want him to end up in the last class, that's for sure. So, the night before, I grilled him on his BM, English and Math. He only lasted for less than an hour after which, he started complaining that his feet hurts from studying. Apakah? Marah betul aku! But I gave in. I didn't want to push it.
Next day, he sat for the test and the results came in on Monday. He scored above 85% for all three subjects but apparently those marks were not good enough for him to be in the first class nor the second or either the third. He was placed in 1 Mutiara which was the fourth class. Mummy agak kuciwa but I knew he did his best and looking from his marks, he scored A's in all three. So maybe, those kids who got in to the first class must have been geniuses to have scored 100% (in fact 75% of those in the first class did!) in all three papers. Oh well, can't have it all, can we?
Fast forward to his finals, Zareef managed to get fifth in class. He was so damn proud and so was I. He even said that he'll be moving up the ranks in classes for Year Two.
So, imagine his horror when he found out that he was placed in 2 Intan, which is ranked fifth in school. He was frustrated and sad beyond words. He kept asking me, "But why Mommy? Zareef dapat no. 5! Kenapa Zareef masuk 2 Intan pulak? At least Zareef masuk 2 Nilam (third in rank)". All I could do was hugged him tightly and assured him it was okay to be in that class. It doesn't matter if he was in the first or the last class (God forbid!), we would still love him unequivocally. We were baffled but most of all I was damn fcuking angry at the school for imposing such system.
To me, such system just serves as an unnecessary stress for the children. For the smart kids in the first and second class, it will be very taxing and distressing for them because they will have study their ass off just to maintain their position in class. A slack of even one point in any result will cause them to move to a lower class. It doesn't help either that the teachers play an important role in drumming such preposterous notion into these kids' heads that Kelas Zamrud is the top class while Delima and Berlian are the dunces.
Yeah, I'm not making this up. B heard it during one of the morning assemblies where the dickhead of a teacher made the ridiculous announcement; "Isnin ni, kamu semua ada peperiksaan akhir tahun. Pelajar-pelajar kelas Zamrud dan Permata kena belajar betul-betul kalau nak kekal dalam kelas masing-masing. Kalau tidak, kamu masuk kelas Delima atau Berlian. Pelajar-pelajar kelas Delima dan Berlian, kalau nak masuk kelas Zamrud atau Permata, pun kena belajar rajin-rajin dan dapat markah tinggi dalam peperiksaan".
Now, you tell me how sick and nauseating to listen to such announcement. That teacher was practically announcing to the whole world that students in Zamrud and Permata are the clever ones while those in Delima and Berlian are as good as nothing. Can you imagine how crushed and devastated the students must be to hear the teacher say that. I know I would. B did. In fact, he wanted to call out the teacher immediately but decided against it as he didn't want to make a scene. I was gobsmacked when B related the story to me and felt like punching that particular teacher in the face. How dare he! How dare he, to give labels to children when he doesn't even have an ounce of right in the first place to issue such statements.
Come 4th January 2010, I went to Zareef's school to pay his school and PTA fees but not before asking his class teacher as to why my son, who got 5th in his class last year was demoted to a class lower than Mutiara. I'm thankful that his class teacher (God bless her soul) for giving me a warm smile first before answering. It sure did a hell lot of good in calming me down.
"Puan, tahun ni, kami dah tak buat streaming. Kami campurkan semua pelajar dalam satu kelas. Jadi, dah takde isu Zamrud kelas pertama, Permata kelas kedua atau Delima kelas keenam. Kita tak nak pelajar-pelajar rasa beban untuk belajar semata-mata untuk masuk kelas terbaik. Kita nak mereka enjoy belajar. Kecuali untuk kelas Berlian, itu kelas pemulihan untuk pelajar-pelajar yang masih tak tahu membaca dan mengira".
Wahhh... this is good! Upon hearing her words, I felt as if a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I heaved a huge sigh of relief, like you wouldn't believe it.
"Kalau Puan nak tahu, Encik yang sebelum Puan pun tanya soalan yang sama. Her daughter lagi la, dapat no. 5 dalam Kelas Zamrud (the first class) lepas tu tengok2 masuk kelas Intan. Ayah dia cerita, sepanjang cuti dok nangis tak nak pegi sekolah. Bukan dia sorang je, ramai budak-budak camtu".
To which I replied, "Huhhh... dan tu salah siapa? Sekolah kan? In the first place buat system macam tuh. Sepatutnya, bila buat rombakan dalam sistem kelas, kena la bagitau ibubapa. Ni tak, buat tanpa bagitau budak-budak mahupun ibubapa. Lepas tu, budak2 Tahun Dua kena sekolah petang pun ramai ibubapa tak tahu (for the past years, Year Two students were all in the morning session). Kenapa sekolah susah sangat nak hantar surat?. Ni semalam saya baru tahu daripada jiran. Tak ke kelam kabut jadinye?!". Ambik kau! Puas hati aku bagi sebijik kat cikgu eventhough dia tak bersalah sebenarnya. Yang bersalah are the upper management. Jangan lepas nih, anak aku kena victimized sudah. Memang aku datang serang cikgu tuh.
Later that evening when Zareef was all ready to go to sleep, I told him about everyone being equal and now there are no first or second or third class. Everyone is the same. He too, heaved a sigh of relief and was even elated to know that several top ten Zamrud and Permata students are in his class. That should make it more interesting to watch the fight to the top.
I blame all this on our exam-oriented education system. If all students were treated equal and instilled with a belief that learning is a fun and on-going process, none of this would happen. At least, that's what I think. It's how you use and apply all those knowledge and skills acquired in school and beyond, formally or informally, in the real life that matters. Interviewers doesn't care that you were in the first-ranked class during your primary school years nor do they ask which English or Math set were you in when you were in high school. Betul tak?!
For now, Zareef's goal in his Year Two is to obtain first in class so that he'll get his prized PSP. At least, he got his priorities right, right?! ;)