Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Best performance by O-level students (2013) in almost a decade

By Amelia Teng And Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2014

STUDENTS who took the O levels last year have notched the best result in nearly a decade.

Of the 34,124 who took the exam, 82.7 per cent attained at least five passes, matching the record set in 2004. Since then, the figure had stayed below 82 per cent, with 81.3 per cent the mark set for the 2012 exam.

The Education Ministry (MOE) also said that 95.7 per cent of the Class of 2013 scored three or more passes, with 99.9 per cent passing at least one O-level subject.

MOE did not name the nation's top scorers, and the schools followed suit, like last year.

In 2012, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School produced two of the three top students with 10 A1s each. Yesterday, it would not reveal how many received the same perfect score, but The Straits Times understands that 16-year-old Alethea Tan was one of them.

She was one of nine students who received the Lee Poh See Foundation award, given to those with outstanding achievements and character, from principal Tan Wai Lan.

While distributing the result slips, the school displayed slides with the names of those who scored at least seven A1s.

Neighbourhood school Si Ling Secondary in Marsiling had plenty to celebrate with 84 per cent of Express students and 27.4 per cent of its Normal (Academic) cohort scoring at least five passes, compared with 75 per cent and 22.9 per cent respectively last year.

Students who scored at least four distinctions in the Express Stream and two distinctions in the Normal Stream were asked to stand for a round of applause from their peers and teachers.

One of them was 17-year-old Choong Wei Tzen, who achieved an aggregate of 12 points for six subjects, despite being on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

Since being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy in Secondary 1, he has been fitted with a mechanical pump to help his enlarged and weak heart function.

Then, an infection last year meant 61 days in hospital, forcing him to miss his preliminary exams and to take most of his O-level papers in the ward.

His teachers and principal took turns coaching him at the hospital. "It was almost like I had private tuition," said Wei Tzen.

The youngest son of a businessman and an auditor wants to go to junior college, and become a research scientist in future.

Science is also top on the list for schoolmate Joseph Khoo.

The 18-year-old, who scored 165 for his Primary School Leaving Examination, achieved a six-subject aggregate of 17 points. He goes on to study biomedical sciences at Republic Polytechnic via the Direct Polytechnic Admission exercise. "I did not expect to get such a good score," said the Normal (Academic) student.

Greenridge Secondary in Bukit Panjang also showed marked improvement in its results, with 92 per cent of its Express cohort scoring at least five O-level passes, 7 per cent more than last year.

For the Normal (Academic) stream, 87.2 per cent passed at least three O-level subjects compared with 73 per cent the last time.

Despite balancing studies with running his own business, Greenridge student Neo Soon Keat scored 13 aggregate points. "I hope to go to university and study computer engineering," said the 17-year-old, who started a server hosting company when he was 14.

Soon Keat, whose father died from an illness when he was two, said his mother was worried that with his company, he would neglect his studies. But he often woke up at 5am to revise before heading off to school.

"Over the years, my schoolwork actually improved," said the student, who added that his business earns him $23,000 annually.

In other results, 90.3 per cent of 4,170 Secondary 4 Normal (Academic) students who took one or more O-level subjects last year obtained at least a single pass.

A total of 2,615 private candidates also sat the exam, with 90.3 per cent of them getting at least one pass.

Students can visit - an education and career guidance portal hosted by MOE that provides information on the options available to them.

Rising above addiction to ace the O-Levels
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 14 Jan 2014

He was an average student who was addicted to online gaming, spending up to 12 hours at times on the activity every day. Unable to peel himself away from the computer screen, Serangoon Garden Secondary School’s S Aravindkugesh found himself sleeping only at 2am sometimes. Often, he would forgo his homework and struggle to stay awake in class.

The only child of a technician father and a mother who works as a nurse, Aravindkugesh said his parents often left him to his own devices and trusted him to manage his time well. But he became addicted to online gaming while in secondary school.

“I was very bored at home and when I played computer games, I realised time would pass very quickly,” said Aravindkugesh.

The 17-year-old student overcame his addiction eventually and received his GCE O-Level examination results yesterday, achieving 16 points on his L1R5 score.

Aravindkugesh said his wake-up call came, ironically, after he gained admission into a junior college (JC) in June through the Direct School Admission (DSA) programme, which allows JCs to select students for admission based on their achievements and talents before the O-Level results are released.

In school, Aravindkugesh excelled in his National Cadet Corps Co-Curricular Activity (CCA). He headed the unit and represented his school and Singapore in a cadet exchange programme in Germany. In 2012, he led them to win the freestyle drills district championship and also received the leadership Eagles Award.

Said Aravindkugesh: “I told myself that if I could do well in my CCA, why not my studies?”

With that, he rejected the DSA offer in order to keep his options open and pursue his dreams of becoming a pilot. But he had to pull his socks up.

The first thing he did was to move the computer from his bedroom to the living room to “remove any distractions”. He worked on the subjects he was weaker at, such as Tamil and Mathematics, and went through stacks of past maths exam papers in a week. He also consulted his teachers on ways to improve.

Aravindkugesh’s maths teacher Chan Siew Eng recalled his “tremendous” drive to do better in the lead-up to his O-Level exams. “As teachers, we can always push students to learn, but when it comes from the students themselves, half the battle is won,” she said.

40% of poly students qualified for junior college
Diverse range of courses, practical learning drawing top O-level scorers
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2014

THE polytechnics are proving to be a draw for top O-level students, with their diverse offerings of more than 200 courses, ranging from marine science to film-making.

Of the 34,800 students who were posted to post-secondary institutions last year after the release of the O-level results, close to 59 per cent - or 20,500 - were offered places in the polytechnics.

But what was significant was that 8,000 - or close to 40 per cent of the students who secured a place in the polytechnics - had qualified for junior college, which requires better results for entry.

The figure was similar to that of previous years, said the Ministry of Education, which released the numbers in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The ministry also said that of the total given places in post-secondary institutions, 33 per cent, or 11,500, were posted to the JCs or Millennia Institute which offers a three-year A-level programme, while 8 per cent, or 2,784, gained places in the Institute of Technical Education.

To enter a junior college, a student's L1R5 score - based on English and five relevant subjects - must not exceed 20 points.

Polytechnics require grades from English and four other subjects to not exceed 26 points.

But for popular courses such as biomedical science and banking and finance, successful applicants need to score under 12 points.

Students who are applying for a place in the polytechnics, despite qualifying for the JCs, say they are attracted to the interesting courses and the practical and applied learning approach.

A typical comment came from Jimmy Lim, 16, who wants to enter the advertising industry on completing his studies.

"I helped a cousin with an online ad and realised that I had a knack for it.

"So I thought why not go straight into a course that will teach me about advertising instead of going on to study maths, science or history," said the student who received his O-level results on Monday.

He has an L1R5 aggregate score of nine.

Singapore Polytechnic principal Tan Choon Shian said of the students who opt for the polytechnics: "They prefer and thrive in our polytechnic system where we emphasise continual learning and assessments, group projects, internships and attachments throughout the six semesters over three years, instead of a high-stakes graduation exam."

The polytechnic route has also become more appealing because more places are now available to those who want to upgrade their diploma to a degree, with the Government opening up more university routes.

Just a few years ago, only about 13 per cent of polytechnic graduates were admitted into universities here.

Last year, the figure went up to 17 per cent.By 2015, this will be raised to 20 per cent.

In comparison, more than 70 per cent of JC students enter the local universities.

Students who received their O-level results on Monday have until 4pm today to apply to a post-secondary institution.

Polytechnic officials advise students to attend Open House events and course counselling sessions to discuss their options with the lecturers.

One student who did that is 17-year-old Ronald Tan, who is torn between engineering and marine science - a new course offered by Republic Polytechnic.

Said the keen diver who wants to be a marine biologist: "I talked it over with the lecturers and in the end, decided on marine science because that is really where my heart is."

59% of 34,800 students posted to post-secondary institutions last year were offered places in polytechnics

33% or 11,500 were posted to junior colleges or Millennia Institute

8,000 students who secured a place in polytechnics had qualified for junior college, which requires better results for entry

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