The final exams were over, the results in and there was a tie – a girl whom I did not know even existed, received the same marks as I. We were tested on English, Science and Arithmetic. (Back then, it was not called mathematics or worse, maths!)

School rules were, no ties allowed, as there simply wasn’t enough money to buy two first prizes. The teachers went into a huddle and came up with a solution.

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Now you know why I came to be called the sarong boy! I suppose it’s a lot better than sarong party boy!

Somehow, I didn’t feel that I was second…after all, who but that girl would want Cinderella!

(Grapes too had not entered my life yet. I stole rambutans and guavas from my neighbours’ trees, but that is another story).

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2011 ***

17 comments

    1. Oh no, we can’t have that – nothing much has changed since the days of yore, when only a select group of people (mostly priests) read and wrote – they wrote what they wished, shoved it down the throats of the flock….still do…

  1. As a teacher, I hate grading. I regard it as a necessary evil. I teach in college and there the students sometimes seem to feel their whole life hangs in the balance, other times that it is nothing to pass or fail. I don’t know which is worse. I can’t figure how to make the grade reflect the actual knowledge attained. I always feel like I am lying when I assign a grade.
    I also do not know how teaching can be gracious. If there are any teachers out there who have discovered that secret let me know.
    Meanwhile, I don’t remember being in any contest in school in which there was a prize. I came in first or second in some spelling bees once, but there was no tangible reward for it.
    And Black Beauty was a great book. The movie, by Francis Ford Coppola was a classic as well. You did good coming in second.

    1. In many Asian countries – Japan, Korea, Singapore – one gets the impression that exams are the be-all and end-all. The pressure-cooker atmosphere in shools here is ludicrous and debilitating.

      In Singapore, schools are ranked, the promotion of school principals is tied to ‘performance’ and this leads to a very narrow focus. The schools and parents blame each other. Private tuition and remedial classes are the norm – private tuition is a multi billion dollar industry in Singapore. Incidentally, tuitions and remedial classes are in addition to normal school curriculum…

      We are churning out exam smart people…

      1. America is trying, using very foolish methods, to emulate that system. Our schools are incredibly bad and becoming worse. I could go on and on.
        I got that movie wrong by the way. Coppola did a movie called Black Stallion on a different book entirely. There was a movie more recently of Black Beauty that was very well done, but very very sad.

      2. Cynics would conclude > The less thinking people – the easier to manipulate and lead…stops them asking questions because we provide all the answers

    1. That is true and we all need to keep in view that ‘grading’ is only one aspect of moulding – a small aspect.

  2. My second prize in grade 4 – this cute girl gave me a kiss on my cheek – I must have looked somewhat wretched and she took pity, I suppose. Aren’t complaining 🙂

  3. Sometimes it’s not getting first that counts but rather getting the gift you want that matters. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. So true, ever had a classmate who came in first and got a nice story book but sadly eyeing the second price which was a box of coloured pencils.
    You got lucky this time man.

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