As of yesterday we have our first SPM casualty of 2012. E. Prem Kumar apparently consumed pesticide after getting less than satisfactory results. There have been others over the years, those who rather take their own lives than face their parents after getting their results. Some silently ended their lives in the privacy of their rooms after getting scolded for performing poorly, getting average results or just getting less A's! Can you believe that?
It seriously is insane, the kind of pressure parents put on their children to get top notch results. The thing is paper qualifications are not everything, and EQ (emotional intelligence) is just as important as IQ (intelligence). Many parents spend so much of emphasis on education, happily forgetting that imparting basic life skills - especially social skills is just as important.
Future employers are not just going to hire you because they are bedazzled by your academic results and fancy degrees. They will also be judging you on your - personality, character, how well you interact with others, your approach to teamwork etc. In short they will be looking for a well rounded personality, not a super nerd.
So how does one become a well rounded personality? A person who is able to function well in society and within an organisation without stepping on other people's toes and being a plain menace? Well with everything else, it starts from home. One word - upbringing!
The way a parent interacts with their child, very much determines the kind of person that child will be like as an adult. Many parents seem to think that spending a bomb on tuition, swimming, ballet, piano etc is a sign of love. "See how much of money I spend every month on all these classes, that's how much I love you!"
If you truly care about the kind of person you're gonna someday unleash on society, you as a parent will spend more time communicating with your kid. Talk to them, they shouldn't be afraid to share their problems or tell you stuff. Children who have such an open channel of communication with their parents, are less likely to do "funny" things behind their backs or suddenly just commit suicide.
Hobbies are important
Children should have other interests besides their studies, whether it is sporting activities, learning arts and crafts ( I highly recommend this, it enhances creativity), reading ( also super duper important) or any other hobby. People who have hobbies are interesting people. It adds another dimension to your personality. And in many cases, childhood hobbies have become future careers.
Reading and writing was my numero uno hobby when I was a kid. I wrote my first piece of poetry when I was 10. Right from primary school I was focused on being a writer. With such an early determination and focus on what I wanted to be, mum and dad did not waste their time trying to push the doctor-lawyer thing down my throat.
My brother loved tinkering with electrical gadgets and computers, today he naturally works in IT and is enjoying every moment of it. There are others like us too, who are blessed to have parents who allowed us to pursue our natural inclinations.
Unfortunately there are also those parents who decide from when their kids are in the womb, what they are going to be someday. Foisting your dreams on your young ones or expecting them to be like you is unfair.
Sometime ago, I read an interview given by Malaysian astronaut Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and his wife Dr Harlina Mohd Yunos to a Malay magazine. The couple said they wanted their daughter and any other children they had to become doctors. They said they would speak to their kids about stuff related to medicine from a young age, so their kids would desire to follow in their footsteps.
If your kid wants to follow in your footsteps, that is fair enough. Many children do see their parents as role models and some talents are genetic after all. But on the other side of the coin, children who constantly feel the pressure of having to live up to their parents successes do suffer psychologically.
Not every child is the same, some absorb knowledge faster, and some don't. This of course does not mean that the latter is stupid. They could be better at other things. A good parent will see this and try to get them to develop their skills in other areas. Instead of pushing them to be like their other siblings who are high academic achievers for instance.
When I was in school, my parents naturally expected me to get good results. But I also got to watch TV and do other stuff. My mother always emphasised that my results should be good enough to gain entry into university. But being good parents they also knew that I was better at languages and subjects that required reading versus those that centred on formulas and calculations like maths and physics. So there was no insane expectations that I should get distinctions in these subjects.
They always said that I should do my best, but if my results were not so great, it was OK. The important thing was that I had given it my best - and that was good enough for them. My dad also said that SPM was really just the beginning and he was more interested in how we ( my siblings and I) fared after that - for that is when life truly begins.
So yes, it is sad to see some students end their lives even before it can begin.