malaysia education

[[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. DivergentThe 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.

hey but please also consider those celebrity!AU I am thinking about right now:

-“i am your therapist and you’re a celebrity seriously you’re so annoying and i wish you could just go away but now that you hired me and seriously i need money right now i watch your work and actually it’s quite good but don’t assume i am your “trash” and seriously what does that even mean ?” AU

-“how lucky am i, little nurse that is still studying their arse off to get the best grades ever, to see you in my services after you had a car accident/tried to commit suicide ? i hope that i’m not too creepy because i’ll have to spoonfeed you for the next two weeks and also be in charge of your “adult diapers” so i really hope that you won’t mind me touching your butthole and being very tired ALL THE TIME because of my studies hehehe” AU

-“wow i’m super lucky today because as an acting student i’m getting the role of my dreams and actually they hadn’t told me that you, the celebrity of my dreams, would be my love interest (in the production of course) ? omg does that mean that we’ll get to stage-kiss and stuff ? wow i’m very nervous now i hope that they won’t fire me because i have no other job offer at the moment actually” AU

-“i work at a charity to help children get an education in Malaysia and you’re trying to save your reputation so you’ve been sent by your management where i’m working. seriously we did NOT need a celebrity right now with all the work we’re having here but hey you’re actually quite hot (and you look clever) so let me show you the place while i’m SERIOUSLY hoping that you’ll be more useful than my lazy colleagues who won’t move their arses for ANYTHING” AU

-“i’m a street artist and i honestly did NOT know who you were so i took you for a lambda citizen so when i’m asking you for a little penny to keep living you refuse to do so and say you’re busy so in a fit of rage i’m taking a picture of you as you go away and i make a post on Tumblr about how people are disrespectful nowadays but your fans recognise you so they’re pretty angry at you now and you’re forced to apologise to me since i have 10,000 followers on Tumblr. so that’s how i end up being invited for a drink at a local café for an interview and then we keep contact because you actually find me interesting and after a little check-out you’re not that bad either” AU


Y’all had spelling bees and forensics; we had choral speaking.

Choral speaking is essentially spoken word in choir form, with overly exaggerated body movements and EVERYTHING IS YELLED OUT while people have their hands behind their back for some reason. The scripts range from teenage years to popular sayings to fables. The conductor is also judged for their skills and personality.

It is a very popular competition in Malaysian high schools, almost always in English. Some googling shows references to Canada and UK schools, but this seems to be a very uniquely Malaysian phenomenon. While there are modern-day spoken word performances that involve groups, I’ve yet to see one use a full choir’s worth, and I’m wondering if there’s a way to modernize choral speaking to new audiences.


Please Read This

There was a plane that went down in Taiwan a couple days ago. It departed from Kaohsiung (where I currently live) and lost control after about an hour. 

That same day, I departed from China back to Kaohsiung. I know it was the same day because my flight was also delayed due to the bad weather (there was a typhoon). This scares me knowing that it could have been me.

However, I see no one talking about this because all we care about is absolutely ridiculous. Yes, equality is good. Yes, we know that people are oppressed. Yes, we now know that you have been laughing at that post for 10 years. However, some of us either do not know or do not care about what is happening out there.

The Malaysia plane crash, the Taiwan plane crash, the Ukraine fighter jets crash, the Algeria plane crash. If you knew about all of these, congrats, you’re paying attention to the news. If you didn’t, please look these up and educate yourself on what is happening. This shit is real and it’s scary. People are dead and even more are mourning for their lost ones.

I go back to the States in a couple weeks. I am scared to go on another plane after learning about all the shit that has been happening.


A sex educator in Malaysia started a channel this year to address the lack of sex education there. She said it was inspired by Sexplanations! I’ve watched the episodes that are out and thing what they’re doing is awesome! SO COOL!