Malaysian parents focus more on education than recreation

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  • Friday, 07 Sep 2012

Last month, the world gave London a huge parting applause for hosting a superb Olympic Games.

My Australian friend Lex called me and said, “A big improvement by you Malaysians for winning a silver and bronze medal this time but you guys are more developed than most countries. Why can’t you win more?” Not long ago I would have had a nice answer ready, but this year I was a bit lost for words.

Olympic success requires talent. So, what are our talented young Malaysians doing? Are they willing to train hard for years to taste Olympic glory? Most of my friends, who are now young parents, would say “no.”

According to research, academic excellence is still seen as the most important thing to many parents, young and old. A 2005 study found that two out of three Malaysians send their children to private tuition classes. The number has decreased compared to 1991 where 80% of students spent four hours a week attending tuition classes.

As a media professional, I have interviewed my fair share of sports coaches, and they all say the same thing — they lose young talent because these kids are focusing on their studies. Coaches say it is not really the athletes’ choice but more the parents’.

Sports is not the only activity that loses talent. If you ask people from the arts or NGOs the main reason they cannot get young people to participate, the answer would be the same. What is the best solution to this? Tuition, study and more tuition!

So we Malaysians should create the Tuition Olympics. With all the hours that the young are putting in, we can surely win a medal. One day we can win a gold medal and there will be a public holiday for all.

Not for all, as the more competitive parents would say to their child, “you should use that public holiday to go for more tuition classes.”

We must never forget that studies are important. We all need an education to make us better people and enhance our employment opportunities; and who ever thinks that education is unnecessary should attend super special tuition classes to teach them otherwise.

But maybe its time for a different approach!

Too much academic pressure and just doing the same thing over and over can lead to catastrophe if not properly managed. In South Korea, the root cause of depression and high youth suicide rates is because of hagwons — a centre offering after school classes with the aim of achieving excellence in exam results.

It is not only South Korean statistics that are alarming. According to another survey, the main reason Malaysian students attend tuition classes is to learn how to sit for the exams. Students just want to know how to answer exam questions and to feel secure before attending exams.

Are we trying to teach children that life is an exam? I am sure we are trying to show them that exams are part of life.

Another concern is that so much of tuition could also lead to poor health. If you look at the size of some students’ school bags, they are sometimes filled with to many books and school notes. Not good for the human back! Unless the student is as strong as an Olympian!

Also notice that when students take a study break they head straight to the kitchen for a snack. Most parents don’t stop their kids from munching away. Could this be contributing to the Malaysian obesity statistics? According to various research groups, 15% of toddlers and pre-school children, and 30% of primary school children are overweight and obese.

To my fellow Malaysians, a belated Selamat Hari Merdeka! Based on the above, our children may have to take a slightly different mantra when it comes to academia.

At the end of the day, whether their grades are A’s, B’s or C’s, we still want them to be in good health and maintain their sanity.

Remembering facts, words, numbers and processes is just a guide. There are other things that also make an individual outstanding. Despite the high number of straight A students our system is producing, why do you think there are still around 71,000 unemployed Malaysian graduates?

Statistics show that graduates’ salary expectations are too high. Maybe these young grads think they are too smart.

> Ben Ibrahim is a TV Host, MC, media personality and former lecturer. He believes that if you are not sure how to teach, then don’t start a tuition business just yet. Teaching is not as easy as it looks. He can be contacted via his email, Facebook and twitter@benibrahim

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