[[malaysia is an inbuilt YA dystopia]]
So I’ve been either reading or reading about YA dystopia, and lately there seems to be a common thread:
Teenagers, already in highly segregated societies, are arbitrarily streamed into specific lifepaths based on mandatory testing.
The Hunger Games has the Districts and the mandatory Reaping. Uglies has everyone go through plastic surgery at age 16 and even then there are subdivisions. Divergent, The Selection, Matched: similar. (hell even Harry Potter does this to some degree.)
I’m sitting here thinking: this sounds just like Malaysia.
There’s the cultural antagonism against teenagers and the need to control them: every so often the Government and the media (which the Government controls) go off on some moral panic or other about Zomg The Teenagers - black metal, drinking & promiscuous sex, pink biker gangs. Always some problem or other.
Then there’s the structural racial segregation (Malay/Chinese/Indian/Other), the segregation of access to resources based on that, the intersecting class divides.
Then you have the multiple national exams, which are specifically designed and promoted as determining your path in life. There’s the UPSR at 12 which determines which secondary school you go to, then the PMR at 15 which determines which set of subjects you can take the next two years (is that still a thing?), then the SPM at 17 which determines your success in life, supposedly. Get Straight As? Go to med school and the world is yours. Fail even one paper? DOOM. (Oh, and you must take Bio/Physics/Chem, never the Arts subjects, oh no those are for stupid people.)
After our PMR results were announced (I don’t recall if this happened at the end of Form 3 or the start of Form 4) we were streamed in Assembly based on our PMR scores. 4A and 4B took the standard set of SPM subjects plus Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Add Maths, and Accountancy; 4C and 4D had the same except for Accountancy; 4E had General Science, Commerce, and Accountancy I believe; 4F had General Science, Art, and Malay Literature. It was also the class where the students who didn’t do so well in the PMR exams were placed.
I was placed in 4C. I wanted to take English Literature but no one in my school would teach me (they needed a minimum of 10 people; only I and one other person were interested and she moved soon after anyway). In front of everyone I walked out of the 4C line and placed myself in the 4F line.
I caused an uproar for the next two years: “You’re wasting your grades!” “Are you in the right class?”
Some years later I returned to my school and talked to my juniors about Life After School, which no one had ever talked about. Essentially I told them that the grades didn’t have to determine your life path, that they had a lot more freedom than they think even if they fail, they’re still worthy people. The students cheered; the teachers glared.
Apparently I am Katniss Everdeen.
(I think my headmistress was somewhat fond of me though; she welcomed my proposal to speak to my juniors, had offered that I take the year off when I was diagnosed with panic disorder the year of my SPM exam - an option I stupidly refused - and had told my dad that after my defiance over Form 4 classes a lot of the high-achieving juniors followed my lead and took up the Arts. Win.)
I’m wondering if there are any YA dystopian stories of this kind set in Malaysia or Singapore or Japan or other places where high-stakes testing is already inbuilt into the system. You wouldn’t need to tweak much - just make the consequences of the testing more overt. Make it harder for someone like me to rabble-rouse. Make it sound so Poe that I would beg you to not give the Malaysian Government any more ideas.
If they do exist, please tell me; if they don’t, I might have to think about writing one.