Thursday, November 30, 2006

Exams and Marks: A Perspective

I had just received my exams results yesterday. Overall, it was a good result but there is always the nagging feeling that I could have done better.
Since God-knows when, I had always been obsessive about marks. I'm generally fascinated with numbers, and can still remember some of the marks I got in Primary school. I don't know why, perhaps it is the fact that I'm very competitive or a perfectionist in nature and marks are the only indication whether you did better then your friends or not. In fact, I was real annoyed that public exams only have grades, which means there's no indication whether your A is 100% or perhaps 70%. A lot fo people tend to argue that marks are just numbers of no real importance, as long as you pass, that's it; or as long as you get a HD, that's no reason to complain. For me that's a sign of mediocrity, a mentality of 'cukup makan'. How will someone progess with such a mentality? But of course you can beg to differ... that there more important thing out there then marks...
But I do agree that marks are no real measure of how well you know a particular subject, other factors such as time-management strategies and exam answering techniques play an important part too. It may seems unfair to some people that marks are lost due to a lack of time, but I think it is a good training to face the realities of life: time management is a must skill to survive.
Rote-learning is a well-known weakness of the education in Malaysia. As recent as yesterday,
Michael Backman, who recently made headlines due to his proclaimation of "Malaysia Bodoh" wrote in TheAge website:

How children are educated in Malaysia is a national disaster.Learning is
largely by rote. In an email to me last week, one Malaysian recalled her
schooling as being in a system “all about spoon-feeding, memory work and
regurgitation. Students are not encouraged to think for themselves and they
become adults who swallow everything they're told.”

Eventhough I quite agree with that, I also would like to say that rote learning is also prevalent in Australia. Even in Universities, most of the subjects need to be rote-learnt. As a veteran in rote-learning, the fact that I can survive here in Uni is a good enough indication that they practice the same 'system' or else I would had struggled like a fish out of water. So I will said to Mr. Backman: your views are first-rate and spot on, but please look at your backyard before criticising other country. Oops, I forgot.. you didn't like to live in your house, but spent most time in London..
While rote learning had been excessively harped and critisied in the education field, I would also like to highlight the lack of emphasis on learning from your mistakes. In my opinion, it is a fundamental error in the education system. I think a lot of people haven't grasp the importance of correcting your mistakes in exams. While having a critical and creative study method is important, equally so is getting feedbacks after the exams to know where you gone wrong. We make mistakes throughout our lives, more so in exams due to the 'pressure-cooker condition'. And as mistakes goes, the most important thing you can do about it is learn from them to avoid falling into the same trap twice.
Nonetheless, seems that universities examiners doesn't think that correcting your mistakes is important. Nobody bother to give you back your papers unless you asked for it. In fact they don't even tell you the score of the components of your exam. Why? I think for fear that you will ask for an additional mark here or there, or you questioning their methodologies, which means more hassle. Even the Deputy Education Minister of M'sia doesn't think that it is important. He felt that exams should go till the last day of the semester. I wouder which teacher will go through the exam paper for the students the following semester. Even if they did, the students will had already forgot nearly everything about it.
For me, learning from mistakes in an exams is more important than the actual meaning of the marks. A poor mark means that there are lots of mistakes being made and there is a need to do a post-mortem to rectify the problem immediately. There is nothing worse than making a mistake without knowing it. Making the process difficult is an indication of one-dimensional mentality and wrong emphasis. And to my friends who think I complained too much about my marks, try put things in my perspective. I hate to make mistakes. It equals imperfection. Harping about marks especially right after an exam in just a way for me to dissect my mistakes and remind myself not to repeat them during the next exam.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Aussie Reflections

You know you had been in Australia for a long time when a AUS$ 5.50 cup of coffee feels cheap and affordable to you.

Just felt like yesterday when it hurts to spend $3.50 for an ice-cream. Man is indeed a very easily adaptable fellow.
Come to think of it, I had been away from home for the longest time in my life - a total of 9 months. In this 9 months I had assimilate pretty well into the Australian culture, starting to appreciate their unique holidays, passions and obsessions. For example, where else in the world where there is a public holiday just for horse racing? The first Tuesday of November is exclusively horse-work only, where the whole city are glued to the TV for the 3pm Melbourne Cup race. In just around 3 minutes, fortunes are to be made and lost as the horses galloped away to the finishing line.
I had also widen my interests in sports in this city rated as the most 'Sports Mad' city in the world, gaining an appreciation for seemingly obscure sports from a Malaysian viewpoint such as Australian Rules Footy, Rugby and most recently Cricket. A few months ago it is hard to fathom me sitting in front of the tellie for succesive afternoons trying to figure out what the heck is runs and wickets about. But is fast entering into my repertoire of must watch sports.

Oh yeah..Australian Idol. At last it finished. Been faithful to the TV show since the first day and it is somewhat a relief to see it finish, coz it had been a long 16 Sundays. The results somewhat surprises me coz its an Irishman that won the coveted Idol instead of a local girl. I conced the Irish guy had slightly superior vocals, but the ability of normal Australians to differentiate between talent and nationality is amazing. Heck, he had been to Aussie roughly the same duration I had been here... wonder how will he fare in Malaysian Idol. I guess he wouldn't even pass selection.. cannot speak Malay language bah!
Well, sometimes studying outside your home country can really open your eyes and alter your perceptions about how you see your own country. As roughly translated from a Chinese saying, the view from outside is always clearer. Since being here, I had noticed some glaring deficiencies as well as some good points about Malaysia that I never realised before, even though the deficiencies somewhat outweigh the good points a little bit. It is tempting to adopt Melbourne as my home after I graduate, but in the end, it is more rewarding to go back to Malaysia to change it for the better. No matter how far or deviating the branches reach, the roots will always stay firm on the ground it germinates.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The bright side of things

Ahem, due to unforseen circumstances, I can only go back to Kuching and eat Kolo-Mee in another 4 long weeks. Hence still stuck here with the unpredictable Melbourne weather.
Been enjoying the previous two weeks doing nothing, so will start to work on my blog today. Enough laziness.
I was having fun checking out websites when stumbled upon this very enlightening post. Just another reminder that there are always two ways (or more) to view an incident.
Like me, cannot go back early as wanted but will get $1000 for my troubles. Oh well, the world doesn't look so bleak anymore. =)
Reasons we can be glad that we have Diabetes
1) In a group hostage situation you can be sure you'll be among the first to be released, faster than you can jingle your MedicAlert bracelet and say "hey, does anyone have a dink? I'm feeling thirsty ..."
2) You can speak with some authority on the subject of diabetes - unlike say, the subject of the current up-to-date situation in the Middle East - and wow friends and family with statistics and lots of complex, polysyllabic words like "hypoglycaemia"
3) You can demand regular sex from your partner and justify it on the grounds that it's part of your medically prescribed exerciser routine
4) Rort the system and use it to get out of tricky university exams
5) When friends are arguing about where to go out to eat, you can say "I have to eat NOW" loudly - which usually means that they will exchange worried looks and hurry to the restaurant of your choice, little knowing that really you were just hungry and didn't feel like Thai
6) Who wants a fully functional pancreas anyway? It's so common.
7) Even though you may have no letters from that secret admirer, you'll always have diabetes-related junk mail so you can know at least that you'll have something to pull out of the mailbox in case neighbours are watching
8)You get to finely hone your swearing abilities with all those times when your BSL isn't what you expected
9) Women with diabetes taste sweeter (I'll leave that to your imagination!)
10) Enjoy the giddy feeling of living dangerously ALL THE TIME: "Bungy-jumping? A walking tour in Zaire? PAH! I have DIABETES!"
11) Always good emotional blackmail in a family fight (I've heard other people do this ...)
12) When annoying men ask you "why do you always drink Diet Coke? You’re so image- conscious. Girls are always worried about their weight.." you can reply with "I have diabetes" and watch in delight as they turn bright red and mumble an apology.
13) Thanks to (occasional of course) hypos and very high blood sugars, you can experience unique body sensations and hallucinatory adventures without the use of illegal, expensive drugs: a cheaper night out!
14) Should you ever meet that special someone and s/he happens to have diabetes, you'll always have something to talk about during those Awkward Silences. You can also employ unique flirting techniques: "I'll show you my injection bruises if you show me yours ..."
15) Should you ever NOT meet that special someone on a blind date or otherwise, just pull out your handy drug kit and excuse yourself for a well needed "fix" in the toilet.
16) Getting a tattoo is a breeze - it just feels like a few more injections than normal (and yes I do have one!)
17) Amuse yourself by trying to predict exactly what your BSL will be after that piece of sugar-coated mud cake, with honey and ice cream on the side.