STPM alone is not enough these days if you want to try to make it into the premier universities of the world. They require TOEFL, IELTS, etc, etc apart from just your exam results. But it's not just the lack of English that is glaringly the problem here. Select universities can afford to be selective. They have a big pool of talented people who want to get in. So grades alone are not enough these days. They want undergrads who are have depth, maturity and versatility. Hence, one might still have a great set of results and still not be able to make the grades. Years of rote and drilling will train us to be dull, boring and predictable... which is kinda good in meeting today's general workforce requirements, unthinking and obedient workers....
The demise of thinking skills in our schools. Kids have no time to think or reflect much these days. There're way too many extra classes conducted by schools, too many tuitions to attend. A kid's day is filled to the brim with classes after class. The chase for grades is what teachers and parents go after, ceaseless and endless. Parents get highly strung when their children don't perform. I find myself falling into that same cycle with my girl too cos it's so competitive in her school. Though we try to balance it up by encouraging her to read, give her time to play with her toys, such times are a luxury. But there're always the grades which serve as a constant reminder....
Woe to those with kids who are constantly struggling to keep up. And because the focus has shifted to academic performance, sports has been negated to a distant behind. Kids who are not so academically inclined but physically gifted these days don't have much avenue to earn and gain some confidence. Everything inadvertently boils down to school grades. As much as some say that the American system is not good (i.e. being sports crazy), I think it provides better opportunities for kids. And because sports is acknowledged, there are more opportunities for coaching and sports related positions for those who excel in it but don't have much academic inclinations.
In a class of 40, there can only be one top student. In a cohort of 200 there also can only have one top student. The mad scramble to the top has caused parents to go on a frantic search for tuition teachers who can perform miracles. And very often such 'miracles' can be made to happen... by lots of rote and drilling. Sometimes I think this steals precious time which can be used for self enhancement and discovery. But these days, everyone is too tired. Parents are tired from their jobs and kids and sending their children for tuitions. Kids are too numbed by the formal and informal classes they attend and teachers are too bogged down to actually get down to really mentoring the kids.
But because the demand of the society is such that we churn out students to meet the needs of the economy, we plod on. Life is all about work (of the future) these days. From the time you can toddle, you get sent to the nursery to learn as much as you can so that you can have that edge when you enter Primary 1. Then more reinforcements in primary school followed by a frenzy of outside classes in secondary school. Tuition is a prerequisite, not an option for one to be successful in secondary school.
Teaching kids more and more, and at ever younger age these days. A 4 year-old is packed off to nursery. By 6, he might be attending reinforcement classes for Mandarin, Maths, BM in the afternoons too. His day begins at 9 a.m. and he gets picked up at 5 p.m. Because there is so much to learn and teach, children are not encouraged to learn via the slower methods - discovery, inquiry, exploring. So, we boxed them up, kill their companion, Curiousness and dull their friend, Creativity in the process. We hit the kids with every pedagogical methods we know to teach them more... and more... and more!
I guess next would be the transformation at work place... Work place in the future might be just like chasing the academic results of today.... non-stop, running almost 24/7, 365 days a year. The system owns you... you function along the line you've been 'programmed'.