BRATs gearing up for SPM, STPM

Back in class: SMJK Yu Hua SPM 2020 students starting off their academic year in the school setting.

THE return of physical classes for candidates sitting for the SPM 2020 and the STPM Semester 3 exams is a welcome change for most of the Forms Five and Six students in The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme.

Rachel Lai Sum Kit, 18, had missed the “sense of normalcy” that studying in the classroom brings.

Describing herself as an introvert, the student from SMK Taman Connaught, Kuala Lumpur, said she had missed social interaction even though it used to give her anxiety. She had also realised that virtual education pales in comparison with physical education.

“It took away the friends who would pat me on the back when I was struggling with homework; the teacher who would snap us out of our daydreaming in class by telling us jokes; and the warmth that we all used to take for granted. Without these, education didn’t feel as effective as it should be, ” she added.

Sudeepta Suresh Kumar, 18, said she was elated to be back in school after almost three months of being confined at home.

“It felt good to finally meet my teachers and discuss our lessons face to face. It is definitely more effective, ” said the student from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4), Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Echoing their sentiments, Sadhna Thrukkumar, 20, said returning to school meant giving herself a respite from digital devices. “There will be no more headaches and sore eyes for me from looking at the computer screen for hours, ” said the student from Pusat Tingkatan Enam, SMK (L) Methodist, Kuala Lumpur.

Charis Chiang, 18, from SMK Che Tom, Sungai Petani, Kedah, said going back to school would help her focus better “without the sound of the television or my family chattering away in the background”.

Florence Ku, 18, from SMJK Yu Hua, Kajang, Selangor, initially struggled with the decision to either stay home or return to school.

Having seen the strict enforcement of the standard operating procedures in her school, she has no more reservations about attending physical classes.

“Most of us are more aware of social distancing rules and are more disciplined in sanitising our hands. We brought our own hand sanitisers and sanitised frequently. A friend told me that he sanitised his hands 30 times on our first day back in school!” she said.

After weighing the pros and cons with her mother, Jyllian Kok E-Lyse, 18, made a last-minute decision to stay home, even though she had been ecstatic about the reopening of school on Jan 20.

“Covid-19 cases have been increasing rapidly and there isn’t much teaching going on now. Most subject teachers are giving out trial papers from other states for us to do. I’ve collected a stack from school to complete at home, ” the student from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3), Petaling Jaya, said.

As for Aina Alyssa Sazali, who is an SPM 2021 candidate, online learning continues for the time being. The student from Kolej Yayasan Saad, Ayer Keroh, Melaka, is among the first batch of SPM 2021 candidates being introduced to the new KSSM syllabus and new test formats.

“Our textbooks were available only one to two weeks before school began. On my first day of school online, we were immediately briefed on the new syllabus and given homework, ” she said.

Although she said it is less than ideal for her to spend her final year in secondary school during a pandemic, she is prepared to face the hurdles ahead. All students featured on this page are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) team.

Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks.

To read more articles written by BRATs participants, sign up for the NiE pullout. It is published on Wednesdays bi-monthly and available only through school subscriptions.

To subscribe, call the toll free number 1-300-88-7827 (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm). For more information on Star-NiE’s BRATs programme, go to

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