05 December 2012

All in the family (Pt 7) – Good bye, SPM!

Children who sat for the UPSR examination already know their results. Parents whose children have performed well are now looking forwards to see their children being admitted into schools of their choice. Some are worried. Pakcik’s grand child knew even before her UPSR examination the secondary school she would be admitted early next year. So we have no worry.  

Earlier, I wrote about our two grandchildren, who had sat for their PMR examination, and were having a good BREAK with us away from city, caring little for whatever examination results which will be released by the end of this month. What they need is just good enough passes to enable them to study science subjects in Form 4 at their present school. Life is that simple. They will continue to study where they are whatever their PMR results may be.

Then we also have two grandchildren who have just sat for their SPM examination. This is where the need for good results is important. But can we expect them to get all A’s and scold them for failing?  I do not forget that their parents and we, their grandparents, never got any where near the elusive all A’s in our SPM nor PMR examination. So why should we put the pressure on them? Come what may.
At this juncture I am reminded of my Senior Cambridge School Certificate (the SPM of the mid 1950’s). So I promise myself that one day I will write a posting on my reminiscence of that fateful examination, one that proved to be a fork in my path over half a century ago and I took the one less taken, leading to the less taken route I am leading now.

So our two eldest grandchildren have said goodbye to SPM. About thirty years ago our three children did it. The youngest of them said goodbye to his SPM in style. One day immediately after his examination he asked for our permission to allow him to camp one night with four friends on top of Damansara hill close to our house. Obviously they were in high spirit and very much relieved after that historic examination of theirs.

We did not think much of that top-of-the-hill camping until our boy returned home on the following morning with a broad smile, bringing along a few small Nescafe bottles. He proudly explained that those bottles were the urns holding the ashes of all his SPM note books and text books! It must have been a very exciting evening when he and his four close friends had a big bon-fire which left no more traces of their tormenting SPM examination except the ashes signifying a mixture of vengeance and satisfaction. That was the way they said goodbye to SPM, all in high spirit, knowing fully well that certificates with all A’s were never in their dream.

And they remain friends till today, every one not doing too badly in life, after all. And I, as a father, have never had any regret over it.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


Al-Manar said...


I am copying here your comment on my post "All in the family ( Pt 6 ) – Take a BREAK":

Salam Pakcik.
I failed 3 subjects miserably....add maths, mod maths and bio! But that was the greatest lesson....to me, it was just another hurdle! Result yang macam tu telah membuatkan saya berusaha lebih gigih lagi untuk menyaingi kawan2 saya yang akan pulang dari luar negara pada waktu itu...result yang macam itu jugalah yang telah membawa saya bertugas di Switzerland, Jepun, Indonesia, China dan Saudi Arabia....alhamdulillah!

nwar said...

I am now enlightened to the event that led to the scarcity of old SPM textbooks on the bookshelves!

Such passion my dear brother!

I myself "painted the town red" with my best buddies that same night after our last SPM paper. 4 young adults with new-found 'freedom', sneaked out of boarding school with $50 in their pockets, took the big blue SriJaya public bus to Pudu Raya and soon enough we were sitting in a club watching live music. Coca Cola in one hand, a stale cigarette in another (one of the guys hid the cigarette in the toilet for fear of being confiscated by the "evil Warden" but it fell into the tank), heads nodding in unison, to the Rock tune played by the infamous band, Search. Ah! such is life.

Looking back, though we couldn't wait to count the days to finally rid and say goodbye to SPM - to be relieved of the exam pressures and burden of expectations then,
instead, 27 years on, the now 4 not-so-young buddies, reflected fondly of those moments. Who would have thought those pressures and expectations were just the beginning.

SPM loses it's significance when spoken in terms of the A's you aced. Wisdom lies not in the results, it's in the lessons.


No3 said...

Looking back, I think SPM was the most important exam of them all. It really does help point the way to which direction your studies and ultimately your career heads to. Of course many many things change along the way, and many more hurdles and exams come and go, but at the very start of that journey, SPM is the real true fork in your life's road that you have to take.
Maybe burning all our books were a little extreme ! But I guess symbolically we didnt want to be burdened by the past anymore, and come what may, we must move forward... like Tariq Ziyad burning his ships.

Al-Manar said...


Saya amat hargai catatan diatas. Tepat dengan tujuan saya yang tahap A bukan kegagalan dalam hidup. Kepada Uncle ia membakar semangat baru hingga berpeluang bertugas dimerata dunia. Itulah kejayaan. Syabas Uncle. Selamat maju jaya.

aliya said...

Dear Pakcik,
I met a few of my students, who fresh after their SPM, are working part-time at TESCO near their homes. They invited me to join them for lunch and I did. Their comments - "Don't ask about SPM, teacher. We're tired after only 3 days of work. Now we know how hard it is to earn money!"
Well, SPM may seem like a big burden during schooldays, but compared to working life, it's just one of life's trials.

Al-Manar said...

Nwar (Pakcik’s No 2)

Only now you tell us how you celebrated the end of that SPM examination 27 years ago. You talk of that ‘evil Warden’ when the five of you were certainly no angels yourselves, sneaking out of hostel in the evening to ‘paint the town red’. But what is important today is your realisation that the pressures at that time were just the beginning. Life is full of trials and tribulations and we have no alternative but to overcome or override them. Alam Shah did not give you all A’s but the five years of your life brought you and your four friends together. It is marvelous to see how close the five of you have been over the years, meeting regularly with your musical instruments, probably counseling one another as well.

Al-Manar said...

Meran (Pakcik’s No 3)

Having performed the bon-fire ritual you believe SPM is the real fork in your life’s road.

Indeed we must not be burdened by the past. But our past can also be our guide into the future, not something to regret or cry upon.

I like the lesson from Tariq Ziyad’s action. Years before my SPM I used to remember the original Arabic version of Tariq Ziyad’s famous speech to his warriors after burning the ships, “ The sea is behind you and the foes are in front of you. You are left with just courage and hope …..” His warriors knew exactly the only choice left in order to survive, and they succeeded.

Do you remember the two-hour special psychometric tests babah made you go through long before your SPM? “ Amran will not do well in a university. The world is his university” was the verdict. It saddened me then but now I am wiser. You pick up as you move on successfully in life. Keep going that way Meran. Keep learning as you move on. I say Alhamdulillah.

Al-Manar said...


You have been a teacher long enough to know that SPM is nothing compared to what lies ahead. How do we make them understand? I believe today's life in school is no longer what it was a generation ago. I wonder under the prresent environments how do we make the children realise this?

MamaTim said...

Bakar buku? heeehee.. for me a taboo for precious books to end up as ashes.

I've forgotten how I celebrated the end of SPM right after the exam's last paper (1985) but still fresh in memory was the great amount of time spent by the beach in Penang at maternal Grandma's house in BatuFerringhi. She (my Tok) was the late Tuanku Abd Rahman's BatuFerringhi bungalow's caretaker. The best teen years spent at my Tok's with cousins!!

Al-Manar said...


Unless there was something very odd or exceptional we not likeely to recall what took place beyond thirty years ago. A diary helps.

I suppose you must have come face to face with the late Tunku those days. How much do you remember of those occasions, what you saw him do or heard him say.

Ismail aka Pak Mail said...

Salam Pakcik,

I sat for this examination twice. First, being the MCE in 1974. Secondly, seven years later, the SPM. I may say, I am doing quite well in the second try, and proud to have the results.

My youngest child has also finised her SPM examination recently. As a parent I pray that she will succeed with good result, as I see before my eyes how she struggle studying.


Al-Manar said...

Pak Mail,

Memang betul sebagai ayah kita berdoa apa yang terbaik untuk anak. Tetapi kita semastinya membebankan anak anak dengan tekanan mesti dapat semua gred A.

I wonder why you had to sit for the second exam seven years later. It was quite an achievement. I hope your youngest will have a good result.

Zendra-Maria said...

I've seen all my five children through SPM but I'm not sure if I can get to do the same with my two grandchildren the older of whom is not even eight months yet. With granny pushing 60 next year, she's wondering whether there will even be written exams in 17 years time when she's 77, and what then might they burn to celebrate their exam freedom.

Al-Manar said...


Do not lose heart. I am where you will be to see your grand doing the SPM. But of course it will be paperless world then- just totally new version of IT - no burning, no ashes for them.

Almost every teacher around me is complaining over excessive paper work to be done because the children are not having any more examination papers. Does it nake sense?

MamaTim said...

The late 'Tengku' (this was what he's known amongst us) was a grandfatherly figure to us very young fellas.. He was kind and caring. Whenever he came over for a rest at the bungalow, the kids were told to keep to one side of the beach, not to disturb the party, yet he's find time to come over and say hi. That's the memory I had of the caring gentleman. Tengku didn't come around as often during my secondary years. Only his children did. Then after my Form5, I left for my ALevels studies and a couple of years later my grandmother (now Allahyarhamah Shamsiah) retired from the post.

Al-Manar said...


What you describe of Tengku is very much I would expect of him, a gentle and caring.

Could I ask you for your email so that I can communcate if I have something more personal - Mine almanar@pd.jaring.my for conntact. If you are not prone to giving it do not worry. I understand.

MamaTim said...

I have sent you an email Pakcik. You gotta check the spam folder in case you don't see it in your inbox