IN its quest for excellence, the Education Ministry has called on schools to explore and identify its own "niches" in the broader education system and then strive hard to excel in those chosen fields.
In this context, I would like to share a catchword -- "Success and excellence" -- which I used to inspire my students when I was a school head.
I strongly believe this catchword had been effective in bringing confidence to my students and propelling them to greater heights.
I agree that every child is blessed, in good measure, with multiple abilities. At the same time, each child is gifted in specific area(s) of ability.
This means that with reasonable effort and discipline, every child can achieve "success" in all aspects of his or her schooling. At the same time, every child can strive for "excellence" in his or her gifted areas of study or learning. "Success and excellence" should not elude any child.
Not every child needs to achieve a string of A's in his or her exam: That is excellence. But every child should strive to pass major exams: That is success.
Not every child can aspire to be a top-notch sportsman or sportswoman (excellence), but every child should strive to do well in physical education classes and enjoy sports and games (success).
Not every child achieves excellence by aspiring to be a famed pianist, violinist or artist. But every child who tries can learn the rudiments of music and achieve success.
As parents and teachers, we should impress upon our children and students the real meanings of "success and excellence". Everyone can and should strive to achieve "success" in whatever one sets out to do. We are endowed with sufficient inborn abilities to master the basics of most things that need to be learnt or done. With proper teaching or coaching, we can succeed in everything we put our hearts to. Every child should know this.
Nevertheless, excellence, as it rightly should, demands a higher standard of achievement. Excellence in a particular field is the reserve of the selected few. Every child should also know this. There is no need to be envious or fearful of others so long as we are confident of our own "niche".
It is the rare individual who can excel in a myriad of fields or endeavours. But each child can strive to excel in a niche of his or her own. The important thing is that each child knows where his gifts lie and be given the opportunity to explore and exploit them. Then, with hard work and discipline, he or she will achieve excellence.
On the other hand, each child must know it is his or her own responsibility to achieve "successes" in the basics, the minimum standards and the general things required of schooling. In this, there should be no compromise.
If schools promote the concept of "Success and excellence" among their students, they will see more successes and excellence exhibited by their students.
The Education Ministry's grand objective of establishing "niche" schools can be realised sooner rather than later. We can then march towards Vision 2020 with confidence. Success and excellence -- that's the way to go!
The New Straits Times Online: 27 Januari 2009