“To be or not to be…” Is that what school is about?

By Nur Afiqah Azizan. Nur Afiqah lives in Bandar Baru Bangi, Malaysia. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Youth Blogging Prize 2013*


First of all, to make sure that we are all on the same page here, I shall give my definition of the phrase, “To be or not to be”, based on how it went on in the beginning of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The phrase here is of Prince Hamlet contemplating whether or not to stay alive. He questions the purpose of life and whether living in this world full of difficulties would be of worth. In conclusion, he figured that people live because they are afraid of death and fear life because they are unsure of what death has to offer.

On relating the particular phrase to this case about school, my finding would be that, “To be or not to be”, here means, “To believe that only our performance in school could determine our future or to believe that school is just one of the elements in today’s life that has a part in contributing to how our future would be”. My conclusion to this case is school does play a part on how our future could turn out to be, but to claim that one’s performance in school fully decide on the future of that particular person is just absurd. To be successful in life, no matter how you define success, one must be able to have the ambition to do so. In following up to achieve that, it is not just the intelligence quotient that counts but it also includes his/her hard work, determination and common sense in making decisions for the better as well as other important matters involving the emotional intelligence quotient like optimistic work ethic, good communication skills and the ability to manage time well to name a few.

Purpose of School

In a simplified term, school is said to be the institution whereby education is reached out to the students. Not only that, school is also said to be the place where students’ minds are nurtured for a broader way of thinking. This has been the case since so long ago. However, if one was to think hard enough, today, this is no longer the case. In this 21st century that we live in, school is the place where students go to in order to get official recognition which would qualify them to step into the higher learning institutions. There, they would put in their effort in order to get a scroll which is supposed to be able to assist them in earning after they graduate.

“Grades Measure Intelligence”, Society

It is undeniable that school is one of the medium promoting the idea that grades are to be considered as a unit to measure one’s intelligence. With a big part of members of society going along with this theory, it is very unfortunate for those who have excellent abilities in fields that are not listed as a school subject or those who are brilliant but are not capable of interpreting it on the exam papers.

I am one of those who disagree with this ideology. When one aces his/her exam, it does not guarantee that the particular truly understands and could execute what was questioned in the exam. Many of those top-scorers admit that after the exam, they start to forget bit by bit what they crammed up in their heads before the exam. Such situations simply prove that there are a lot of parts to the education system that do not prioritize the passion of each student.

With the technology that we have today and how easy it is for us to gain information on a wide range of topics, that time we live in school is the time when we start exploring and figuring out our identity to set the career that we wish to get involved in for the future. Subjects in school are there as one of the tools to help us decide our interest. They also help develop the basic fundamentals for us to further proceed with what we intend to major in.

However, it is those who (a) have lack interest in the limited subjects offered in school and (b) cannot ace them as well as those who believe in school as the key to their success in the future, who are being looked down upon. To say that those who do not do well in their exams will not be able to get a promising life ahead is simply unfair.

Many drop-outs, thanks to their hard work in understanding life and how the world evolves with the human kind, have proved that they can even gain better living compared to those who work it with their exams and academic performance. On the list we have Richard Branson who dropped out of school as a 16-year-old. He also happens to be against the university system and is a well-known English businessman who is the founder of Virgin Group and not to forget, is worth $4.6 billion. We also have Francois Pinault who is the third richest man in France who decided to drop out of school to work at his father’s lumber mill because of how his poor background got his friend laughing at him. Vidal Sassoon, the renowned hairstylist whose net worth was $130 million quitted school when he was 14 and worked as a hairdressing apprentice and later on expanding his horizon in the hairstyling industry.

Education versus Academic

Many of those who believe that school is the only way to a bright future fail to remember that there is a big difference between the term education and academic. Through what I understand, education is experience meanwhile academic is the formal performance that you have to put on in schools, colleges and such.

Education involves learning and could take place anywhere. However, to perform well academically, one must study. Learning is exploring the wonders of the world and having the interest to actually do so for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Academic, on the other hand, means a lot to knowing what is taught and should be answered in the exams or tests.

Education is of your own will. It is infinite and beyond. At most times, you learn because you want to know and it is out of your own curiosity. A big part of academic life involves you to force yourself to get into your head even matters that you could not be bothered about. In my opinion, it is good that we have academic to ensure that we understand various things – not just what we like to know of. However, what I feel is wrong is when it is made compulsory that we become experts in every single thing that we have to perform for in the academic line.

In the words of Natalie Portman, “I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.”

In conclusion…

I do not hate the idea of exposing us, the students, to the many subjects ranging from topics like Pythagorean Theorem in Mathematics to national independence in History. In fact, I find it rather amusing as such knowledge that we could gain helps in developing our maturity in viewing things. It also makes one less ignorant.

However, I do not agree to the idea of pushing students to make the best out of every exam and pressuring them with the idea that if they do not do well in their exams, they will not be able to have a good future. Exams should be friendly. They are for the purpose of knowledge. There are so many life skills which are not tested in the exams in school. Some people might just happen to have great abilities and interests in other fields that are not listed as a subject in school. If those who are downgraded are those who could excel in their field of interest and make great transformation to the world, it would be of waste if they shy away and put their great skills to waste because of the current state of thinking.

With that, I hereby affirm my stand that school is not all that decides on one’s future be it encouraging or not but what matters most is a person’s hard work, determination and common sense with other life skills that help in creating a bright future.

27 comments on ““To be or not to be…” Is that what school is about?

  1. Manpreet Kaur Sandhu on

    Good work Afiqah! Honestly, a very well-written piece and Im really proud to have been able to know you through Niexter. You’re gonna make a great writer and journalist in the future 🙂 Loves x

  2. Lee on

    Great article!! Many interesting facts and stats with credible sources. can see That you really put in alot of time and effort.
    Great article nevertheless, informative yet concise.
    Do continue writing, hope to see more pieces from you.
    Cheers! 🙂

  3. Syakirin on

    After reading this piece of article through and through, I have to admit, it touched points that I felt was necessary for others to acknowledge.

    What I want to mention is that you could work more on how you build the sentence. When you’re typing/working on an article, you have to keep in mind; you’re out to attract the readers, so you have to be wary on how you insert metaphors, etc. I won’t lie, when I tried to read the article, sometimes I feel like stopping just to figure out how to recreate the sentence, to improve it.

    Overall, It’s a solid work. Improvise based on what I pointed out, and surely, I won’t be able to give less than 10/10.
    (Sincere apologies for the tl;dr) :

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Hi, Syakirin!

      Hehe.. You know you have great pointers here that you really don’t have to apologize for.

      Thank you so much for pointing out the flaws. I agree that after re-reading the article again, I could find that at some parts of it, I had the urge to think of better sentences myself.

      Thanks again, Syakirin!

      By the way, do you agree with my points in the article?

  4. Harith Iman on

    A big thumbs up to this article, because I really liked the style and I totally agree with the topic, which was further strengthened by undeniable evidence.
    You have a bright future in Writing and Journalism.
    Keep at it, Nur Afiqah! Ganbatte!

  5. Ariff Aziz on

    As a matter of fact i did an essay regarding ‘Academic Excellence assure you A Perfect Life’. I went against the idea coz i felt the need to stand up for the little guys; those dropouts. People are different in many ways; some a born gifted with a brain others are born talented in other fields i.e music, sports and speaking. It all reflects back to the students on what they want to do in the lives later on coz we will mostly end up with only 1 job! However, pn. Razlin didn’t really approve my essay coz it was a bit “too liberal” from her POV. I don’t blame her and neither should you. Most teachers won’t like this idea of focusing only certain aspects of a student as it goes against our conventional way of studying. I liked how you differentiated academic vs Education and studying vs learning coz i did the exact same thing in my essay. It’s important to let people know the fine line between these misused terms. Current status quo says that academic excellence is the only path to a bright future which has been circulating around the world since the late 90’s. I think you should try to find some facts about schools overseas which helps to focus their students to their career path. In most Euro countries they have like medical, engineering and law schools for high school students as early as 13 y/o! It’s somewhat similar to our vacational schools but more towards those mega jobs. I found out about this when i came back from a biology conference in Bali. However, we can’t blame the gov for not having these kind of super schools. Those countries there are all 1st world nations so they have more funding. Nevertheless, it was a good read but you should try to make it sound more attractive and clear cut to the audience whom you are going to show to. I hope my ‘rant’ about our current education system doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just an opinion from the heart

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Mr Ariff Aziz aka Mangat, thank you for your wonderful comment 🙂

      And yea.. I wish we had those vocational schools which lead to big bucks job here in Malaysia for youngsters

      Mangat.. I really like your comment.

      Like seriously. You inserted some of the points which I missed in my article and are really essential to making it a more solid article. (Y)


      • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

        And Mangat, yea.. I must say, most teachers and parents are pretty much against this idea. But I find that their arguments don’t really seem to be based on reality.

  6. Damon Tham on

    I can’t help but agree to these points. Often parents and/or teachers would look at the academic achievements of one’s child to determine his or her future. And that irritates me. Especially when someone’s talents cannot be shown on pen and paper. Very nice article. I’m jealous of your writing skills.

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Aww, Damon :’) Thank you for the compliment! I’m touched! Please excuse this sappy moment, lol.

      I’m glad that we are on the same page about this 🙂
      Hopefully, one day, we are able to execute changes for the better in this important field.


  7. Anesha on

    Brilliant piece, Afiqah! I think this is what students out there, as of right now need to know. That education is more than memorising facts out of a textbook, but rather learning to incorporate them into our daily life.

    I agree that modern thinking sees grades as being the sole most important thing one obtains from school and I believe when one becomes so wrapped up in that, they forget or tend to miss out on the true joy of learning. I love your Natalie Portman quote and I think it’s time more people found the beauty in studying.

    Grades shouldn’t be all that matters.
    Even if you lose, you don’t lose the lesson.

    But once again, awesome work! 🙂

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Aneshaaa 🙂

      Thank you for the wonderful comment!

      Yeah, totally. The beauty of learning is totally underrated.

      I totally agree with this part of your comment, “That education is more than memorising facts out of a textbook, but rather learning to incorporate them into our daily life”. (Y)

      Hopefully, one day, there will be a way to lessen the dependency on grades and relying on actual skills in both theory and practical.

      Thanks again, Anesha!

  8. Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar on

    Afiqah, first and foremost, I must congratulate you on your effort. You have many good points in there but I shall be honest here. You need to be careful in the choice of words used so that your readers get a clear idea of what you want to say. I would like extend this advice which my father said his teacher gave him: What do you want to say? Write that down. Try not to overly impress with big words. Keep it simple. Difficult words and complex sentence structure may not contribute to a better essay. As I was reading your essay, I had to go over some parts a few times to understand what you wanted to get across. So that is my two cents worth…

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on


      Thank you for the comment!

      And I can’t deny them because honestly, I do find myself like, stuck trying to express what I have in mind in simple words sometimes..

      And and and

      How about teaching me how to do so? :B

  9. Rachel Desirée on

    Congratulations, Afiqah, you certainly excelled in describing school for us.
    For me, at least. 🙂
    I’ve felt this way for so long. I don’t like studying, because studying is like a kinder word for ‘memorising’.
    As a person with a brain, students should not JUST be armed with a pencil and a textbook.
    Some ‘teachers’ even force the students to follow what was written on the blackboard, because ‘[she] has no time to mark everyone’s books”.

    Teachers are meant to inspire students – not to make them hate learning new things.

    We can’t think out of the box, because if we do, we get low grades. But who are they to tell us that we’re unable to make opinions and sentences on our own?

    I may [or may not] be going off topic here, but still…

    A great piece, Afiqah. 🙂

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on


      Yay! We’re on the same page. Hehehe.

      Your points really complement my article. I often find myself very pissed off at the fact that we are told to think outside the box but no way would that be accepted by most of the examiners.

      It’s pretty sad, in my opinion..

      Thanks for the comment, Rachel! We shall discuss this further in our chats :p

  10. Suhail on

    I agree with you 100% on the grades doesn’t measure intelligence. Most of my classmates are memorizing everything before the exams.

    plus great article

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Hi, Suhail!

      Totally! That’s always the case. I suppose memorizing is important in its way but to memorize without understanding and all for the sake of grades makes degrades the value of the grades! Seriously.

      Thanks for the compliment and the comment 🙂

  11. Wan Aflah on

    A good article overall, suprisingly for a student which is even younger than my brother. Good work, strive for excellence 😀

  12. Mizi on

    this is just a great article. full of information and i am totally agree with everything you said in this article . i would love to read more of your article ! great job!

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Mizi 😀

      Thank you for the positive comment! It’s cool that we’re on the same page.

      And thanks for the compliment on the article! 🙂

      I look forward to reading articles from you too!

  13. Jia Qian on

    Good article! I have to say, I agree with you cause the education should not only be memorising the textbooks and whatnot but more of practicality. This is what our education system lacks of.
    Besides that, I also agree that people look up and give a higher oppurtunity to those that have better grades than the ones who are lacking. This statement comes from my personal experience where one of my teachers discriminates her students by the subject marks as in the higher scorer gets more attention etc compared to the lower scorer.
    Students should be looked at in overall/wholesome instead of their grades only. So basically, your grades shouldn’t be all that matters.

    • Nur Afiqah Azizan on

      Dear Jia Qian Leong,

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Exactly my points. Grades are there for some reasons but to judge an individual based only on his/her grades is just pretty lame, in my opinion.

      Again, thank you!


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