Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beyond the PMR

Getting top marks - and over 26,000 Malaysian students achieved this in the recent PMR exams - is always an occasion to celebrate. Congratulations to all those who worked hard and were rewarded with an unbroken string of As'.

I don't wish to take anything away from their success, but it may be timely to issue a small reminder.

Getting straight As' in a government exam makes one fact indisputable: You've mastered the examination game. But ay there's the rub - it's a game. And games change.

Mass standardized exams were created for an age of mass standardization (duh), for an era where it was very worthwhile obtaining a list of where everybody stood vis-a-vis everyone else, for a time when it helped to compare how everyone performed on some normal task. Why was this important? Because excellence in normal, standardized tasks were the measure of how far one 'moved up' the ladder.

But if the criteria for excellence has shifted, then naturally the criteria for assessing how well one is being prepared to delivered that excellence will also change. And here's old news: They've all shifted.

Today, getting ten As' may not be as important as having ten strong Facebook or LinkedIn useful contacts or having done ten good projects or being able to make ten good sales pitches in a month or having 10 work-in-progress mini-projects going on simultaneously.

Or just having ten crazy things in the past year. Anything that shows you're not interested in 'coloring within the lines' or going along with the system. Anything that proves you're passionate about new things and cool ideas and like-minded people.

This won't always be alpha-numerics you can put on paper; it'll be the wonder that (unmistakably) shows in your eyes when you talk about it at the job interview you'll succeed at where most will/have fail(ed).

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