Friday 17 August 2012

Five awarded 2012 President's Scholarship

Malay student is one of five winners
By Stacey Chia and Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 16 Aug 2012

SEVEN years ago, he was recognised as the country's smartest 12-year-old, having come out tops in the Primary School Leaving Examinations in 2005.

Yesterday, Mr Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee claimed another title - the first Malay student in 44 years to be awarded the President's Scholarship, the Republic's most prestigious undergraduate award.

With less than a week to go before Hari Raya, the news was celebrated by leaders in the Muslim community.

The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said: "It shows that it is possible within the Malay-Muslim community for us to produce talented individuals.

"I hope this will motivate many more Malay-Muslim students to try and excel as much as possible."

Although there have been two other Muslim recipients, Mr Adil Hakeem, a 19-year-old Raffles Institution student, is the second Malay ever to win the scholarship.

The first was Mr Mohamed Ismail Ibrahim who won in 1968.

This year, including Mr Adil Hakeem, five students received the award, which was given out yesterday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

They are: Mr Moses Soh (Raffles Institution); Miss Alicia Tee (Hwa Chong Institution); Mr Jarret Huang (Raffles Institution); and Mr Shaun Lim (Anglo-Chinese School Independent).

Mr Adil Hakeem will be applying to study liberal arts at Yale University in the United States. At the ceremony yesterday, he was accompanied by his parents and younger brother. They live in an HDB flat in Toa Payoh.

Asked about being the first Malay in nearly half a century to win the award, he said: "I'm hopeful that in the next five to 10 years, people will forget about me, because by then there will be a lot of other success stories to share."

Dr Tan said that the scholarship had evolved over the years to give more outstanding youth the chance to get a good education and serve society.

The most recent change was made in 2009, when the award was opened to students on statutory board scholarships. Mr Soh, 18, who is on a scholarship from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, is the first to be named a President's Scholar under this new category. He will be studying economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Miss Tee, 19, will study political science at Yale. Mr Lim, 19, and Mr Huang, 19, are headed to Harvard University and Cambridge University respectively.

In his speech, the President stressed the need for "visionary, brave, and passionate leaders" in a time of global uncertainty.

He said: "I hope that you will carry that torch of our pioneers, and be the new generation of leaders who will bring Singapore to even greater heights."

President's Scholarship for Aidilfitri
Second Malay awardee in history credits grandma's nagging for win
By Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 16 Aug 2012

THERE are many people Mr Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee should thank for his President's Scholarship, but the first that comes to mind is his grandmother.

If not for her, the avid footballer said he probably would not have studied very hard, if at all.

Growing up, he said, his grandmother would nag his brother and him to finish their homework. Both his parents, a project manager and marketing manager, would often be at work when the siblings returned home from school.

"My success has now put more pressure on my brother - my grandmother keeps telling him to study harder for his exams," he laughed. His younger brother, Arif Izzuddin, 16, is a Secondary 4 student at Chung Cheng High School (Yishun).

Mr Adil Hakeem, 19, is the second Malay ever to win the highly coveted President's Scholarship.

The award is the latest in a string of success stories in his academic life - not least of which was to top the Primary School Leaving Examinations in 2005. Before that, he was a pupil at Guangyang Primary School, when he was accepted in the Education Ministry's gifted programme and moved to Rosyth School.

Last year, he was also a member of the national team that emerged champion at the World Schools Debating Championships held in Scotland.

Despite his achievements, there was a time when he said he almost did not make the cut.

Speaking in English peppered with bits of Mandarin and Hokkien, he said he had scored an E for his preliminary exams in A-level Chemistry last year. Thankfully, a few months of intense studying turned that E into an A; he scored distinctions in all seven subjects.

"I wouldn't say it was a major setback in my life. If it was, then my life would be quite sad," he quipped, still nursing a dislocated shoulder from running an army obstacle course earlier this week.

Currently in the Officer Cadet School, the Overseas Merit Scholarship (Open) holder said that a career in public service was something he decided on as a teenager.

"I can always help people out in my spare time, but I realised that spare time isn't very much time. If I can make a living out of helping others, why not?" he said.

He also hopes to do his part for the Malay community. "We have come pretty far... But there are areas for improvement when it comes to academic standards. It is my hope that I will be able to help in this aspect." His mother Madam Zulinah Mooksan, 51, said her son's achievement is an honour for the family. "It is a real blessing, this being so close to the Hari Raya festive season," she said.

'Have always believed it was only a matter of time that one of us could make the breakthrough, and I am glad that it has come'.
- Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, on a Malay winning the President's Scholarship

'This is a Hari Raya gift because for 44 years, we have waited. The Malay community will be delighted'.
- Former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri

Scholarship holders on what it takes to be a President's Scholar

'Other than academic achievements and co-curricular activities, character is an important thing they look for. Having humility and integrity is something my school and the Boys' Brigade have instilled in me.'
- Mr Shaun Lim, 19, who will do liberal arts at Harvard University on a Singapore Police Force scholarship

'One of the main reasons underlying my selection was having many great people around me. My mother is a huge inspiration as she is a living example of being able to live for something bigger than yourself. She'd never let her divorce be an excuse for us not to have a good childhood.'
- Mr Moses Soh, 18, who will do economics at the University of Pennsylvania on a Monetary Authority of Singapore Undergraduate Scholarship

'Debating and the study of the humanities provide skills like confidence and the ability to think and reason coherently, skills which are useful for the public service. But without perseverance and the willingness to struggle for your goals, these skills alone are not enough.'
- Mr Jarret Huang, 19, who will read law at the University of Cambridge on an Overseas Merit Scholarship (Legal Service)

'I want to be in public service because I want to be part of the national effort in ensuring that Singapore remains a country with sustained economic development and warmth. I do not think a nation's future is determined by one individual person.'
- Ms Alicia Tee, 19, who will study political science at Yale University on an Overseas Merit Scholarship (Foreign Service)

Malay leaders hail achievement
By Matthias Chew, Phua Mei Pin, The Straits Times, 16 Aug 2012

WITH Malay educational attainment on the rise, it was only a matter of time before someone from the community would make a breakthrough and win the country's top scholarship, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim.

Yesterday, Mr Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee became the first Malay student in 44 years to be named a President's Scholar.

"I have always believed it was only a matter of time that one of us could make the breakthrough, and I am glad that it has come," Dr Yaacob said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a break fast event at SingPost yesterday, he noted that over the past five to eight years, Malays had been faring better academically at all levels.

With several Malay top scorers at the Primary School Leaving Examination and several first-class honours graduates in recent years, he noted: "It shows that the potential is there and the numbers have been on the rise." Dr Yaacob added that he hoped Mr Adil's award would motivate other Malay students to do well.

Other Malay community leaders also welcomed the news, saying it reflected the community's progress.

MP Zaqy Mohamad said the absence of a Malay honouree for so long had led some to doubt if Malays could be high achievers.

He said: "I think the new generation has proven that high benchmarks can be achieved, and that the perceived barriers have been broken."

But former MP Othman Haron Eusofe said much more still needed to be done in areas like education and employment.

For former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri, the good news came at just the right moment. He said: "This is a Hari Raya gift, because for 44 years, we have waited. The Malay community will be delighted."

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