Written by: Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5), Ng Teck Zhong (20-E5), Soh Iwin (20-E5), and Zenov Liu Fan (20-U1)
Designed by: Leow Jia Wen Jolene (20-E1)
Click here to access Part 1 of this article.
Grades Don’t Define Who We Are
Walking out of the classroom, there were a few J3s along the corridor, tearing up as they spoke on their phones. This might seem all too familiar to some of us, reminded of the times when we felt desperate and hopeless because our results fell below my expectations, or when we were met with failure. To some, those moments always negated whatever hard work that had been dedicated to prepare for said examinations. On that day, however, as observers, we felt pity as well. Pity because of how deeply the notion that grades define who we are is entrenched in our minds. It was as if we could forget who we are the instant we received less-than-decent grades.
This reminded us of a CNA article we had recently read on how many A-level graduates were choosing to gain job experiences before admitting to a university. “I received a birthday present from a family member, with a card that wrote ‘This could have been a double celebration.’” This was a remark by an interviewee in the same article, where he recalled his experience after he received his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. Upon reading this, it got us thinking: What is with the fixation on grades and winning the rat race when most of us will likely still be able to land ourselves a decent-paying job in the future? The heart of the matter is this—since its independence in 1965, the notion of Singapore being a small, nascent nation that requires immense work to succeed has taken root in many people’s mentalities. This explains why even as young children, we might have been told to work hard for success. It also explains why Asian parents are regarded as “tiger parents” for being hard on their children, showering them with “tough love”. Even Singapore’s education system supports this notion of hard work for success, with their belief in meritocracy as well as the academic-related awards and bursaries that follow.
Therefore, although we cannot change the way the system perceives us—mostly by paper qualifications before our attitude and aptitude, and as much as we seek recognition or affirmation for our hard work, which often culminates in high expectations of ourselves, we can only rely on ourselves to manage these expectations. Ultimately, we have to keep in mind that what brings us further in life is not limited to what we see on our papers, but rather our attitude towards adversities that we will face. The way we perceive and react to our failures is more decisive in shaping us as people than our grades. If we could learn to pick ourselves up and keep going, then we would also be achieving success — in loving ourselves.
Overall, we can all agree that this whole experience of witnessing the A-level result collection has been fruitful, and we have had many takeaways from it — from how hard work can really pay off, to how we could love ourselves better in the face of failure and thus, how we can extend this love to our friends who might be struggling just a little more than we are. We are really grateful to be able to witness this event which has since triggered our reflection on how we could be better versions of ourselves, and better friends to those that matter.