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All kids who go through our national education system will ultimately sit for their SPM. Results will be out on the 10th of June. Hoorah! You’ve just passed an important milestone. What’s next after SPM?

SPM 2021, a SPM like no other

2021’s batch is no different from their predecessors, though they are quite special. This is the first time in the history of SPM that the whole cohort took the exam at the age of 18. They are also the first batch since its inception to take their exam in the midst of a pandemic, and also to have their papers scanned so that they can be marked digitally – to mitigate potential disruptions of the results.

Fun fact: The Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), or the Malaysian Certificate of Education, is a national examination taken by all fifth-form secondary school students in Malaysia. It is the equivalent to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Nationals 4/5 in Scotland; and GCE Ordinary Level in the Commonwealth of Nations.

But when change is forced upon us, there’re bound to be issues. One of the things that crossed my mind was I wonder how they carried out the process of scanning over 400 thousand of students’ worth of answer papers. With 6 core subjects and a maximum of 6 electives per student, we are talking millions of scripts. Did they implement any safeguards or controls in place when digitalising? Is there total integrity in the scanning process? Are there any mechanisms to ensure that no script or even a page of it goes missing. With so many things that can go awry, perhaps it’s time for the Ministry of Education to digitalise exams altogether.

So, what after SPM?

So, what after SPM? There are so many choices to pick from these days – STPM, A-Levels, Matriculation, Foundation, Diploma and perhaps even International Baccalaureate to consider. It’s a big decision. But, which path is the best?

I think most SPM graduates have not much inkling of what to do? I remember I was pretty much lost after SPM. It was pretty confusing back then. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, nor the career I wanted to pursue. So if you’re feeling confused, it’s normal. Fast forward to today, I think I’m pretty much still exploring my interests. So take heart if you feel lost. I think that’s supposed to be good in a way.

Traditionally, most parents would want their kids to end up as a professional – a doctor, accountant, lawyer or engineer. These were generally considered as recession-proof jobs as they generally needed regardless of the economic situation. But the world is changing. The world today is more dynamic. Jobs (like social media influencer, blockchain, cloud architects, etc) that didn’t exist in the past, exist today. And some jobs (like the bowling alley pinsetter, street lamp lighters, switchboard operators, etc) that existed in the past, are now extinct today.

I wish schools in Malaysia were more forward looking. They weren’t before during my time in school, and I doubt they have changed much since then. Schools play the pivotal role of enlightening and educating the future leaders of what the world is now and would be when they step into the working world.

Our life is an endless journey; it is like a broad highway that extends infinitely into the distance. The practice of meditation provides a vehicle to travel on that road. Our journey consists of constant ups and downs…

Chögyam Trungpa

Read also: Life is like a Game of Chess

In the end, does it matter where you end up? To a certain extent, yes. A good educational institution does give you a platform that sets you up on an easier path to succeed. But ultimately, the thing that will lead you to success is yourself.

Picking the right direction

So whither the direction after SPM? I think whatever choice of a course that is made is not the main issue. I think the focus of these newly minted post-SPM kids should be on developing their skills. The work place is so dynamic now that a degree no longer holds the sway to a job. Instead skills that exhibit your cognitive prowess such as the ability to actively learn, use technology, be creative, tolerant or flexible, be able to collaborate and having good communication skills are what’s valuable in the workplace nowadays. Studying for a degree should not be the end in itself but rather a means to all those, and more.

We are living in a time of many disruptive transformations. Much of what we have now are at the verge of being or forced to change. The pace might have been quickened by the pandemic. After all, how many of us even talk about jobs like being an an ethical hacker or DevOps Engineer, let alone blockchain solution architect a decade ago. I know when I embarked on my university life, these jobs were unknown to us. And that was not even a decade ago.

The job market will continuously change and evolve with every disruption and disruptions are aplenty these days.

Perhaps time to pick up a book on digital disruption at Kinokuniya Online before making a decision? It is always good to understand the disruptive technology that is happening right now. Go read about how far we are into space exploration or how CRISPR will change the way diseases are treated, or how food production will be enhanced and simplified and many more. Read to grow your imagination and perspective. Read so that you will have a better understanding of the skills required so that you will remain relevant and ahead of the game.

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