WHEN the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2020 results were announced on June 10, a collective sigh of relief could be felt among Malaysian school-leavers nationwide.
Having gone through a most unusual year due to Covid-19, which came with school closures and the shift to online learning, our students have risen above the challenges and demonstrated resilience, patience and strength.
Commendably, Malaysia’s National Grade Point Average also recorded its best overall score in the past five years.And now, it’s time to move on. What’s next? Study? Work? Start an online business? Do some volunteering?
Remembering myself at this same crossroads, I would like to offer some thoughts for your consideration.
Recognise your talents
Each of us is imbued with individual strengths. Such strengths could manifest themselves in specific talents, and they should be celebrated, honed and developed to bring out the best in us.
You have heard it said many times: “Do what you’re best at.” And if it isn’t mathematics, that’s all right.
You may develop your other endowments or, as Prof Howard Gardner of Harvard University calls it, our multiple or different kinds of intelligences.
There are nine intelligences which represent the full range of our abilities.
These are visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, naturalistic and existential.
If we think about famous historical figures, we could guess which of the multiple intelligences they best exemplify – for example, visual-spatial in Picasso, logical-mathematical in Einstein, and naturalistic in Sir David Attenborough.
Of course, we can be intelligent in more ways than one.
My younger colleagues gave the example of K-pop superstars BTS, who would fit into the musical, bodily-kinaesthetic and interpersonal intelligences (the last of which due to how well they connect with their fans known as ARMY).
I’m a passionate proponent of the multiple intelligences theory and believe everyone can excel if they truly understand themselves.
I have met many students who become dejected, especially if their exam results aren’t great.
It is important that they see this as an opportunity to find their own special intelligences, talents or gifts to drive them towards their passions and individual successes.
Balance your parents’ aspirations against your own
Parents, in wanting the best for their children, may at times be faulted for pressuring their children to live their dreams, especially if they never had the opportunity for themselves.
These children may have different ideas or passions. If you are one of them, do not cast away your parents’ aspirations carte blanche.
It is important to understand where your parents are coming from.
Having raised you since birth, they know you best and their views are often a mixture of life experiences, worldly knowledge and high hopes for your future.
Many who follow their parents’ advice have done very well too.
Yet at the same time, you might have a better understanding of the emerging job market, in-demand skill sets and career prospects.
Considering how fast-paced things move nowadays with the help of technology, and keeping in mind the changes brought about by Covid-19, there is a balance to be struck.
So, if you find your dreams at odds with your parents’, sit down and discuss this together.
Make a living versus make meaning
Very often, I am asked which career makes the most money.
Many of you will naturally want to choose a path which enables you to earn a good living.
This is absolutely fine because financial security and the quality of life for you and your loved ones are very important.Nevertheless, as you go along your journey, spare a moment to think about living a meaningful life. This is where you plan your path with purpose.
Jack Ma, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, once said, “I want to tell people that if you want to run a business, you have to run the value first, serve the others, help the others – that’s the key.”
So, while you’re thinking about making money, do make sure you’re also thinking about making meaning.
Money without meaning can make life unfulfilling. Be concerned about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to make a difference.
I say this because in life there may come a point where we could be blinded by the pursuit of wealth and power or unbridled growth.
Hence, it is important to develop a “beyond myself” frame of mind and one of purpose.
It is never too early to think about living a purposeful life and this actually adds a different dimension as you embark on your post-SPM journey.
Never stop learning
Learning should be a continuous and lifelong journey.
Indeed, lifelong learning is important for one’s growth and even more so now for challenges in a post-pandemic world.
I would like to refer to the late Sir Ken Robinson, British author and international advisor on education, who, in his book Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative, talked about value shifting from what he called “knowledge stocks to knowledge flow”.
He said that we need to replenish new knowledge and allow this to continually flood our consciousness.
Not only do we need to keep learning, but we also need to keep learning new things.
We need to unlearn at times and then relearn how to learn something else all over again.
In this new reality, the new learning required is about how to learn all over again, with a totally fresh mindset, freeing our mental and emotional systems of most of what we may have been indoctrinated with.
For our SPM school-leavers, this could be an opportunity to start afresh.
You may have been placed in the Arts stream, but you really desire to study Biology, for example.
This can be done, with the resolve and determination to learn something new and different.
See an education counsellor today and all the best for your future.
Prof Elizabeth Lee is the chief executive officer of the Sunway Education Group. A veteran in the field of private higher education, Prof Lee is also an advocate for women in leadership. She has been recognised both locally and internationally for her contributions in the field of education. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.