The Malaysian Chinese - Kiasu-ism In Education
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Are Chinese kiasu in general, or is it just the Singaporeans? I think Malaysian Chinese are sometimes quite kiasu themselves - literally means "afraid to lose". Most Chinese parents hope that their kids grow up to be all-rounders (heck, I know most parents, regardless of race, also hope the same). But how many would actually "push" towards achieving that, even though it means forcing their kids to go to tuition centres as far as downtown? How many parents would actually make their kids take up piano lessons, even though the kids themselves aren't interested?

I think many Chinese parents are like that. It is often told (to the kids) that they'd regret it one day if they don't take up these extra lessons. When the parents (mothers, especially) get together for an evening chat (heck, or early morning in the market), more often than not they'd compare their children's school results - PMR results, latest ABRSM (Associated Board of the royal Schools of Music) results, SPM results, etc. The pressure is there, in the Chinese community itself. Parents aside, even the children themselves feel the pressure. Peer pressure, that is. If it isn't the peer pressure, it's usually the self-satisfaction and "natural kiasu-ism" that drive them to excel in studies - and outperform the rest. Kiasu-ism is evident in them when their results make a small drop (in points), the next thing you know they lock themselves in their rooms the whole day to make up for that drop.

Another factor that contributes to the kiasu-ism is the meritocracy issue in our country. Despite the relaxation on university quotas and such, most Chinese still believe that the competition is very tough - and that they need to outstand, outshine and outdo their Bumi counterpart in order to gain university acceptance. Other reasons include the perception on securing scholarships and study loans - they believe that it's not easy for a non-Bumi to get government scholarships and study loans. The Chinese believe that education is very important - in fact they'd go great lengths to ensure that their kids get the best possible education.

Some would travel to as far as the next town for tuition classes, others go to well-established schools in a different district - even if it means having to rise as early as 5.30am. Why, aren't schools around our own housing area good enough? When the children are young, the parents plan their education paths carefully - because like I said, education to them is very important. They make practically every decision there is to be made - from taking up art classes to learning martial arts, from taking music lessons to going for ballet classes. Luckily for them, their kids learn to enjoy and appreciate these extra lessons. But for others, it means dragging their crying children into the dance hall and make 'em wear the painful ballet shoes.

To the Chinese parents, having their kids grown up to be doctors, accountants, pharmacists and dentists mean alot to them. It's like bonuses - and the news would spread like wildfire across the family tree. From the first aunt to the last uncle, from the neighbour next door to distant relatives overseas, "Oooh, have you heard? Jane's daughter is now a surgeon and she's making six digits annually!". Other younger relatives (nieces, nephews, lil cousins) would then be told by their parents, "Nah, learn to be like Auntie Jane (or Jane Jie Jie), study hard and become a doctor when you grow up!". Admit it, this happens all the time. Kids as young as 3 or 4 years old are being piled with pressure - the pressure to study hard and make the family proud when they grow up.

That said, I believe that the Chinese community (I won't sweepingly say all of them, but many of them) here in Malaysia and Singapore share a similar trait - kiasu-ism, at least when it comes to studies and children's professions (when they grow up). So before you call others "kiasu", ask yourself if you're any better. Admittedly, I myself have this mentality - and I resorted to joining numerous school activities, even taking extra subjects - hoping that these "extras" could "beautify" my Sijil Berhenti Sekolah (School-Leaving Certificate?!?). Despite not achieving the "perfect" outcome (hehe), I was still satisfied nonetheless - at least I tried. I'm not ashamed of the kiasu-ism in me, because it somehow motivated me to do my best that I can, in whatever I do. But I practice kiasu-ism "moderately" (honest!!), in the sense that I accept failures and I don't go *all out* (but I make efforts, hehe) to improve (heck, I'm a lazy person). I think it's naturally in me - in fact I can also see it in most of my friends.

With Singapore being highly densed with Chinese, it's not surprising that kiasu-ism is evident there. But I believe that the Chinese here in Malaysia are not any better - again I'd like to stress, I'm only talking about education-wise!

By the way...
Opportunities Aplenty
It's wrong to believe that the Chinese often get sidelined when it comes to education aids. Scholarships are being offered everywhere - if you're really good, try applying. Apart from that, loans, too are becoming increasingly popular. The National Higher Educational Loan Fund (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional, PTPTN) - sorry if English translation's inaccurate - for example, offers loans to Malaysian students. If you graduate with First Class, your PTPTN loan automatically becomes a scholarship. Generous, no? Besides that, the private sector is also much sought after when it comes to study loan applications. Worse come to worst, put off the idea (of studying) for a while, work until you earn enough - and then consider continue studying again (I learnt this from Big Bro, heh).

Safety Fears for Aid Workers in Aceh
Now this is scary. In view that our government is sending 18-year old NS trainess to Acheh, I would like to share this. Taken off Aljazeera.Net: "Indonesia has said it can not ensure the safety of aid workers outside some cities in tsunami-devastated Aceh, also the scene of a decades old civil war." Another excerpt: "For three decades separatist Gerakin Aceh Merdeka (GAM) - the Free Aceh Movement - has been fighting the government for independence for Aceh. At least 12,000 people have been killed in clashes."

To all Acheh-bound NS trainees, God bless you.

13-year-old Achieves Perfect SAT Score
"Pennsylvania boy follows his brother in achieving maximum 1600 in varsity-entry test." (Story on Note: SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test
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