Picture this – you’re in high school, sitting in a classroom of 35 students, rushing homework that you forgot to complete last night. Out of nowhere, you’re told to stop coming to school.
You’re probably feeling great about this situation. “I don’t need to wake up at the crack of dawn to get ready? I get to study online? That’s awesome!”
But realistically, your next few months will probably consist of adjusting to online classes in isolation, struggling to figure your subjects out and not being able to see your friends. At the end of this grueling period, you are expected to sit for the biggest exam of your secondary school life.
Sounds rather frightening, doesn’t it? This was, and is, a reality for the SPM students of 2020 and 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything for them, with no prior notice.
Yet, it was reported that the national grade average for 2020 was the best in five years! How did they achieve such a feat with so many obstacles in their way?
I found an answer to this question when we interviewed Kamal Hafiz, a young visionary from the batch of 2020…
I first heard about Kamal from SPMFlix, a self-directed learning portal where students can focus only on what they need to learn, at their own pace and in their preferred style with the convenience of a Virtual Learning Environment.
Kamal was one of their top scorers – he achieved an outstanding 9A’s for SPM. But he is so much more than his academic achievements.
As soon as we got on the call, Kamal cheerfully introduced himself,
“So, I’ll start with the basics. My name is Kamal Hafiz, I pursued my primary and secondary studies at Sri Utama and completed my SPM examination in early 2021.”
Kamal plays the drums and used to be in a band with his friends.
“We performed at almost every school event. It was fun, really fun!” he added, excitedly.
Aside from his love for science, history and music, Kamal also developed a keen interest in foreign languages. In the latter half of his secondary school life, Kamal decided to start learning Japanese.
The top scorer is currently pursuing his foundation studies and is considering a career in International Relations.
“Hence why I chose to pick up a third language,” he chuckles.
Kamal’s parents were from the generation that adopted the ‘Look East’ policy. Growing up, he heard a lot about the virtues of Japanese culture.
“This exposure from such a young age ignited my curiosity about Japan and what it would be like to live and work there, amongst such driven individuals.”
When asked if he had visited Japan, he laughed sheepishly, “No, but someday I will!
The struggle was real..
From the first part of our conversation, I recognised quite quickly that Kamal was an incredibly active student, always going a step further and planning ahead for his future. But it also meant he must have gone through quite an ordeal when the pandemic hit.
Curious, I asked him how he coped, especially with the transition from face-to-face classes to online learning.
His tone took a serious turn as he recounted his experiences
“When my school had fully transitioned to online learning, I could genuinely feel the difference. Back then, I didn’t have a desk in my room so I attended classes from my living area. Hunched over my laptop, I would be listening to classes for hours on end.”
With six family members confined in a small home, grappling with one router and old laptops, you can only imagine how much more difficult this process must have been for Kamal.
He laughs in spite of himself, “It also doesn’t help that although I like studying, I can be quite lazy.”
However, despite the odds stacked against him, the young visionary aced his examinations.
After almost two year of studying online, I asked Kamal if he now prefers this mode of learning. He answered with a flat, “No.”
The SPM leaver still prefers the classroom setting, where he can engage with his classmates and teachers, without a computer screen between them.
Although, he reluctantly agreed when I pointed out some of the benefits that come with online learning. Some of them he discovered through the virtual learning portal, SPMFlix.
SPMFlix – yay or nay?
Deciding that he needed a bit of help with his SPM preparations, Kamal began perusing seminars and courses that best suited his studying style.
His friend recommended SPMFlix. When he checked out their portal, the first thing that caught his attention was the fact that there were seminars for Science in English.
“Science is my favourite subject but I was struggling with it when preparing for SPM. Most seminars I attended taught Science in Malay. This posed a challenge because my syllabus was in English,” Kamal narrated.
The flexible nature of SPMFlix’s free seminar allowed Kamal to first try out their Science courses.
Coincidentally, the teacher was focusing on topics and areas he was having trouble with. By the end of the course, Kamal was taken aback by how this one seminar had helped him comprehend the confusing nuances of Science.
He thought to himself, “If I can better understand Science through this seminar, perhaps I would gain by joining classes on the other subjects too.”
The more regularly he attended these SPMFlix seminars, the more he was beginning to grasp difficult topics and complicated chapters.
To furnish his online learning experience, he also joined SPMFlix’s soft skills seminars, such as mindmapping, study skills and memorisation techniques. He applied the methods taught and found a significant improvement in his self-studying.
Kamal thoroughly enjoyed the interactive nature of SPMFlix, especially at a time when he was denied such learning experiences.
“When I first joined SPMFlix, I wasn’t expecting much because most seminars were quite dull and they never really helped. I was pleasantly surprised when I experienced how different things were with SPMFlix. Tutors would use green screens, conduct Q&As and quizzes, prepare practice sheets – it was all so helpful,” he said, relief filling his voice.
At the end of our interview, I asked Kamal if he had any ‘words of wisdom’ for high school students who are venturing into this new normal in education. He ponders for a second,
“This is quite cliché but my main advice would be to start now. When your results come out, you will be thanking yourself for preparing early. This is infinitely better than feeling an all-consuming regret for having studied last minute.
Most importantly, please take care of yourselves. Avoid studying for hours on end – take short breaks in between and indulge in activities that will help you relax. There’s no point in pushing yourself to the extent of burn out. It’s a journey, not a race.”
The 20 minutes I spent chatting with Kamal provided me with all the answers I was looking for. Students like Kamal are so full of potential. In this new age of learning, educators should work to effectively cultivate their abilities, knowledge and skills to ensure they can thrive in any circumstance.
They are, after all, our future.
If you want to better prepare yourself for the upcoming SPM examinations, join the highly anticipated SPM Seminar over on SPMFlix.com and gain access to the ultimate virtual learning experience.
Part 3 is from the 29th of January up to the 20th of February, 2022. Don’t miss out!