valedictorian
n valedictorian [ˌvalədikˈtoːriən] (American) the student with the highest grades in a graduating class who gives a speech at the graduation ceremony

The IB Centre of Sri KDU certainly does not use that definition to choose it’s valedictorian. The IB Valedictorian is chosen by a panel of teachers based on an interview and the teachers’ personal opinions on that particular nominee. They then vote for the nominee that they think best deserves the IB Valedictorian award. The ‘highest grades’ criterion is only required to be a nominee. Even then, not strictly.

So what definition of a valedictorian that is used in Sri KDU? Quoting Mr Shaw, it’s the ‘best cool dude’ (or something like that, can’t really remember). So IB valedictorian, according to the IB centre of Sri KDU, is the person who has shown great potential, academic excellence, etc. In short, it is the best student of the batch over the span of two years. But how exactly do you define best student? Academic performance? Public contribution? Principles and values? I bet it differs from teacher to teacher in that selection panel.

I see flaws in the selection method. Firstly, you should not, in fact, cannot, judge a person’s personality, principles, values, contribution and performances over the past two years in just a single 10-minutes interview. Secondly, some of the teachers in that selection panel has never taught some of the nominees. In light of this, how can they correctly and justly judge the nominees?

I don’t get to be the IB Valedictorian, and I don’t have any issue with that. I see the IB Valedictorian award as a reward to be given to a student who has shown not only academic excellence, but also has given a lot of contribution to his peers. Because it is a reward, it is the entirely up to the school to decide who to give it to. So they decide not to give it to me, I am totally fine with that. I don’t do what I do for a reward anyways. But to the one they chose, does he really deserve it?

Well, that depends really on how do you define IB Valedictorian. If you define it as a person who has shown great potential, great values, great academic performance, and great personal skills, then he totally deserves it. But do we have to define it as such? I define it as someone who, while working his way up to the top, helps others to work their way up to the top too. And by this definition, I’m sorry Winson, but I think there’s a better person who deserves the award.

But that’s the problem with the society we’re living in. It is very individualistic. We value individual achievements so much that we forget and neglect about the community. IB Valedictorian, Student of the Year, President’s Award, these are all awards that recognise individual performance and achievements. Is there any that recognises community contribution?

Yes, competition is good in some ways, but it is not the only way to move forward. Cooperation is a better way, but most of us don’t see it that way. We are just content to let ourselves through, and not care about the others. Like a Malay proverb, we are just like “enau dalam belukar, melepaskan pucuk masing-masing”. I say this is not good and we should change this. We should instil more sense of community, of togetherness, of caring for the others in ourselves.

I’ve done my part in trying to instil this sense of community among us. I initiated the Wikirevise project, among other things, a community project that will surely benefit no other but the community itself, and thousands others. But what happened is some notes are really under par in terms of quality. Others just don’t bother to do it and upload the notes. Some of the Econs students took up the hassle to organise and divide the Econs topics, but none of the assigned persons of the June 07 batch uploaded any of their parts. Perhaps this says something about how they are faring academically compared to us.

I have also conducted Maths classes for the weaker students. Yes, my intention is to help these students, but I also partly hope that by doing so, there will be others who will feel called to conduct such classes too, maybe for other subjects or for other topics. I obviously cannot do it all on my own. Again to my disappointment, there are none.

Individualism is an ideology that supports and pushes and reward individual achievements and performances. But a great nation is not built by a single person. Nor does a great company, or a great institution, or a great family for that matter. We have to recognise that there are people around us, people who we are in a position to help, people who one day might be we ourselves or our kids, or our family. It is not enough to succeed alone. Help others.