Editor’s Note

When the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2023 results were announced on May 27, it was discovered that approximately 10,000 Form Five Malaysian students last year chose not to sit for the SPM exam.

Jun 15, 2024

By Patricia Pereira
When the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2023 results were announced on May 27, it was discovered that approximately 10,000 Form Five Malaysian students last year chose not to sit for the SPM exam. Although this number represents a significant decrease from the 30,000 absentees in 2022, it remains a worrying indicator of shifting priorities among our youth. Education director-general Azman Adnan has promised a thorough investigation and intervention to tackle this issue, but it is clear that a deeper societal challenge is at play.

A significant factor contributing to this alarming phenomenon is the allure of becoming social media influencers. Many students harbour the mistaken belief that a career as an influencer guarantees wealth and success, thus diminishing the perceived value of education and formal qualifications. This belief is a symptom of a broader cultural shift where instant gratification and visible success are often prized over the disciplined pursuit of knowledge and personal growth.

At this critical juncture, the role of educators, especially Catholic teachers, is more essential than ever. Teachers are not just conveyors of knowledge; they are mentors, role models, and guides who shape the character and future of their students. Our inspirational story this issue (Page 12) features Cikgu Shawn (see pic above), who, through the Teach for Malaysia programme, has been a tremendous inspiration to the students of a high-needs school in the interiors of Gerik, Perak. Shawn exemplifies the passion and dedication we need in educators today.

Pope Francis has often spoken about the transformative power of education. In his address to the Congregation for Catholic Education, he emphasised that education is an act of love and a service that brings us closer to the truth. He said, “To educate is an act of love, it is to give life.” This profound statement underscores the sacred duty of teachers to nurture not just the minds, but also the hearts and souls of their students.

Catholic teachers can draw inspiration from the Pope’s teachings and work towards dispelling the myth that fame and wealth are the ultimate goals in life. Instead, they can emphasise the Christian understanding of vocation — a call to use one’s gifts in service to others. This perspective shifts the focus from self-centred ambitions to a broader, more meaningful understanding of success and fulfilment.

To address the specific challenge posed by the influencer culture, teachers can incorporate discussions on media literacy and critical thinking into their curricula. Helping students understand the realities behind social media success — the hard work, the often fleeting nature of fame, and the lack of job security — can provide a more balanced view. Moreover, encouraging students to reflect on their true passions and talents, and how these can be developed and used to serve the community, can inspire a more grounded and purposeful approach to their future careers.

Parents and the wider Catholic community also play a crucial role in supporting educators. At home, parents can create environments that uphold the value of education and encourage children to pursue their studies diligently. The Church can further support these efforts through programmes and activities that celebrate academic achievements, such as the Tan Sri Dominic Vendargon Award, and promote vocational discernment among young people.

Furthermore, the integration of technology and social media into education should not be viewed as a threat but as an opportunity.
Catholic schools can harness these tools to enhance learning and engagement, showing students that technology can be used responsibly and productively. By creating content that highlights educational success stories and the positive impact of well-educated individuals in various fields, schools can counteract the glamourisation of influencer culture.

The reduction in the number of students abstaining from the SPM exams is a positive sign, but much work remains. Teachers, especially those guided by Catholic values, must rise to the challenge of guiding their students away from the superficial allure of influencer culture and towards a deeper, more fulfilling pursuit of knowledge and personal growth.

Like Cikgu Shawn, by fostering environments where education is cherished and students are encouraged to discover and develop their God-given talents, we can look forward to a future where young people are not only successful but also truly fulfilled.

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