Saturday, 12 January 2013

81.3% score at least five passes in 2012 GCE O-Level exam

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 10 Jan 2013

Results of the 2012 Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Level Examination were released on Thursday with 81.3 per cent having scored five or more passes.

It was slightly lower than the 81.9 per cent for the 2011 examination.

About 37,200 candidates took the examination, including about 3,000 private candidates.

Amid the increased concerns over the extreme pressure stemming from the Primary School Leaving Examination, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has stopped its practice of announcing the top-scoring students whenever it releases the results of national examinations.

The O-Level results released to the media on Thursday focused on the performance of the whole cohort.

At Chung Cheng High School (Main), anxiety gave way to relief, as 99.8 per cent of the students who sat for the exam attained five or more O-Level passes.

54.3 per cent of the 444 students scored at least five distinctions.

For many, results day was an emotional experience.

Phyu Thin Khine, who scored eight distinctions, had to overcome the tragic death of both her parents in an accident three years ago.

"I just wish that they could be here with me," said Thin Khine, who is originally from Myanmar and has been in Singapore for about seven years.

Her classmate Abigail Sim also scored eight distinctions but it was not an easy feat considering she was selling toothbrushes from door to door to earn pocket money a year ago.

She stopped in March last year when her school found out and started giving her a monthly allowance of about S$80.

She was also the recipient of MOE's Financial Assistance Scheme.

Her mother is an administrative clerk, and her father is currently unemployed.

Abigail said: "It allowed me to cover my pocket money and my daily needs. And if the school wants us to buy extra notes or assessment, I'd be able to use the money to help myself. My secondary four year has been a really meaningful one, because I really achieved quite a lot of things in many areas, like academic, sports and other areas."

Abigail credits her parents for supporting her emotionally.

"Even though they may not be able to support me financially, like other kids, like watch movies and go out, they really gave me the moral support I needed," she said.

Abigail added: "My parents and brothers helped me. Even though it may be a small chat, it meant a lot to me because it released the stress and mental burden when I was feeling down. My friends understood my situation, so they would not force me to do things when I was not free. They understood what my priorities were."

Abigail hopes to study medicine and become a paediatrician, and volunteer her medical services in third world countries.

This is the first time in many years that a top scorer in the O-level exam has not been named.

Instead, schools all over Singapore are recognising the efforts of many of their students who have performed well, many like Abigail who have had to overcome challenges to rise to the occasion.

Chung Cheng High School (Main) principal Pang Choon How, said: "We are looking at not just the academic, we are also emphasising that it is the effort that really counts. We are looking really at exemplary character and holistic education that we hope that we will be able to inspire them to carry on for the rest of their lives.

"It is really about the perseverance and the tenacity that they have shown to overcome all odds, and these are really personal touching stories that we feel can inspire, and inspire the cohort of students. By also recognising the whole cohort, it is also important in the sense that it gives them a sense of pride together, because they have worked hard together for four years."

Many neighbourhood schools, like Westwood Secondary fared better than the national average.

92.8 per cent of students in the Express stream and 68.2 per cent of students in the Normal Academic stream scored five or more O-level passes.

"Having an aspiration is important, so that you know where to go, and know that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams," said Muhammad Nur Syafiee Ayub who scored six distinctions and aspires to become an architect.

Two hundred and twenty-three students from Westwood Secondary School sat for the examination.

Kudos for A-listers but in low-key mode
By Stacey Chia And Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2013

THE Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday kept to its new approach of not singling out the nation's top scorers when the O-level results were announced.

But that did not stop some schools from revealing their A-listers - albeit in a more low-key manner.

At Nan Hua High School, Jaryl Boey, who scored nine A1s, was singled out when the results were announced. But the school took pains to highlight the 16-year-old's co-curricular record, leadership potential and community work.

Xinmin Secondary flashed slides complete with the names, results and photos of two top students - Serena Mok Jia Xin and Chinese national Zhang Heng Chao - who scored nine A1s. The principal also invited 38 other students with six or more distinctions up on stage.

Some schools took a more subtle approach.

CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, which produced two of the nation's three top scorers last year, did not announce the results of its top students this year.

But it was not hard guessing who aced the exams. Lee Kai Yi and Malaysian Liew Jia Hui - both scored nine A1s - went on stage to receive academic achievement awards given to students with the best O-level results.

MOE had announced that it will no longer name the top scorers of national examinations here, starting with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in November last year.

The move was intended to balance out the "over-emphasis on academic results". It led to an information blackout when the PSLE results were announced.

In line with its new approach, its press release yesterday on the O-level results stated only the overall performance of the cohort.

MOE said of the class of 2012, 81.3 per cent scored at least five passes - close to the 81.9 per cent seen in 2011. A total of 37,259 students sat the O levels last year.

Previously, the ministry, in its release, would name nearly a dozen top students. It would also list schools that had at least one student scoring seven A1s or more.

Principals who named the top scorers defended their move, saying that most of them are all-rounders and are good role models for the younger ones.

Said Xinmin Secondary principal Ong Hong Peng: "This helps us to recognise the efforts of the students and to motivate students of the current graduating levels."

Still, a few other schools visited by The Straits Times toed the ministry's line all the way.

At Crescent Girls' School, principal Tan Chen Kee revealed only the names of 38 students who scored seven or more A1s and the Edusave Character Award recipients. She said: "I did not want all the attention to go to the top scorer - we should celebrate the achievements of the whole cohort."

However, parent Felicia Tan, 40, felt schools could be less uptight about naming the O-level top scorers. Said the accountant, who has a daughter in Secondary 3 at Crescent Girls': "Maybe for the PSLE, it is understandable as the students are much younger. But why with the older students at O levels and A levels?"

Managing time well helped teen shine
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2013

MOST students may tap away mindlessly on their mobile phones during their daily commute from school to home.

But Hazirah Mohamad Helmy would be busy scribbling answers during the 40-minute train journey from her school in Redhill to her five-room flat in Simei.

By the time she reached home, she would have completed some of her homework for the day.

Besides good time management, the Crescent Girls' School student also made sure she paid full attention in class so that she did not have to re-learn at home whatever the teacher had taught.

The 16-year-old yesterday bagged nine distinctions - seven A1s and two A2s - making her one of the top O-level students at her school.

The oldest of five children, Hazirah went to Madrasah Al-Ma'arif Al-Islamiah for her primary education. Of her four siblings, she was the only one to attend a religious school - a personal choice she made when she was six years old.

She said she was influenced by her aunt and cousins, most of whom attended a madrasah.

Hazirah, who scored 258 in the Primary School Leaving Examinations, then applied to Crescent Girls' School, which her mother, Madam Shareena Md Saniff, 42, a teacher, had attended.

The transition to a mainstream school was fairly smooth for her.

She also became a school councillor. "I've always enjoyed leadership positions because they can be very rewarding," she said.

She is now deciding between the International Baccalaureate diploma programme and the traditional A-level route.

But her father, Mr Mohamad Helmy Mohd Isa, 42, who works as deputy director of mosques with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, hopes she will go on to Raffles Junior College, now named Raffles Institution.

She said: "He is from that school, so naturally he hopes I will go to RJC."

Students who scored - against all odds
They overcome tragedy, setbacks and hardship to get good grades
By Kezia Toh, Stacey Chia And Derrick Ho, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2013

EACH time Cheng Dao Long picked up his books to study, he would be distracted by images of the horrific accident involving a speeding Ferrari that killed his taxi driver father.

"Whenever I tried to study, my mind would be filled with good memories of my dad and also footage of the accident that was circulating online. It was very difficult to concentrate," said the 17-year-old.

His father, Mr Cheng Teck Hock, 52, was killed when a Ferrari driven by Chinese national Ma Chi sped through a red light, crashing into his taxi. The two drivers and a passenger in Mr Cheng's cab were killed.

Traumatised by what happened to his father, Dao Long, a Secondary 5 student at Yishun Town Secondary School, had to go through a month of counselling.

Studying for his O-level exam was the last thing on his mind.

But things turned out better than he expected when he got his results yesterday. He scored two A2s, four B3s and a C6.

He said that he owes his good grades to his teachers and a lawyer who offered to tutor him and his 19-year-old brother after reading about the family's plight.

"It was a horrible thing that happened, but through it I met many kind people," said Dao Long who plans to study hospitality and tourism at the polytechnic.

Things also turned out fine for Abigail Sim, 16, despite her having to juggle school and work.

Months before she sat her first O-level examination paper, she was selling toothbrushes from door to door. The Chung Cheng High School (Main) student took the weekend job to help support her family of five - her father is unemployed and her mother is an administration clerk - taking in up to $100 a week.

Juggling school and work had not been easy. But she made good use of her one-hour commute on the bus and train - from her Housing Board flat in Tampines to school - by using the time to revise. "Any single moment I have, I would study - I've got to have self-discipline and prioritise," said the middle child in a family of three children.

The school later gave her a monthly allowance of $80 under a needy student fund, and asked her to stop work.

Yesterday, Abigail received her O-level results - she got eight distinctions: five A1s and three A2s - and is gunning for a place at Hwa Chong Institution or Victoria Junior College.

Meanwhile, at Si Ling Secondary in Marsiling, Secondary 5 student Ixora Chang, 18, had to leave Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) after two years because of poor results.

She was transferred to the Normal (Academic) stream in Si Ling Secondary, and yesterday received her O-level result slip bearing four distinctions. She wants to study business at the polytechnic.

"If I continued coasting along in SCGS, I might have been complacent and expected myself to do well without working hard."

Ixora, who lives near Stevens Road, admitted it was "depressing" when she was first transferred to Si Ling, where most students were from the Normal stream.

But she bucked up when faced with tears from an unlikely source: Her self-employed father cried when she repeatedly did badly for her exams. She said: "Sometimes that is all you need to see, and I felt like I failed him."

Athletes show they score in studies too
By Sue-ann Tan And Derrick Ho, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2013

NATIONAL swimmer Meagan Lim, 16, has made a splash in the O levels, scoring five distinctions.

The Methodist Girls' School student, who attained gold at the Asean School Games 100m butterfly in 2010, said juggling both sports and academics requires her to "manage my time well and know where my priorities lie".

Her daily schedule is punishing - waking up at 5am for training, then school till 2.30pm. She heads to practices again at 4pm.

This leaves little time to chill with friends. As exams neared, her mother Wendy Lim, a project manager, noted that Meagan had to focus on competitions too.

While other students revised for their O levels, she was in the thick of action at the first South-east Asian Swimming Championship, winning a bronze in the 100m butterfly.

"Meagan is very focused in both studies and swimming," Mrs Lim, 43, said.

Other sportsmen did well too.

At the Singapore Sports School, soccer player Nicholas Yong, 17, scored eight A1s to become its top O-level student. Some 70 students from the school sat the examinations last year.

"I am very pleased and satisfied that my hard work and sacrifices paid off." He has been doing consistently well in academics and football in the past two years.

In 2011, he represented Singapore at the Asian Schools under-15 championships. He was also in the winning Singapore Sports School team in the local Nike Under-15 Manchester United Premier Cup.

"Through the four years, it's been quite tough juggling sports and studies. After I train, if I wanted to rest for a while, there would be no time to study," he said.

The aspiring doctor has gained entry into Victoria Junior College through the Direct Schools Admission and will be in the school's soccer team.

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