While Singapore has made significant strides in becoming more open-minded about the different paths to success over the years, there is a nagging feeling that exam results still play a huge role in determining the place. where you find yourself in life.
Based on your personal experience, some of you may have heard tales of how good grades equate to a bright future, while lower grades are a “dead end.”
To challenge these feelings, we spoke to three Singaporeans who didn’t do as well as expected on their GCE ‘N’ and ‘O’ level exams to find out how they bounced back better than ever after this setback.
Here’s what they shared.
Doing poorly for their GCE ‘N’ and ‘O’ level exams
When 30-year-old Ken Ng flunked all of his GCE ‘O’ Levels subjects 13 years ago, many of his peers laughed at him.
One even told him, “Normal technical students are definitely unable to cope with ‘O’ levels; says you’re wasting your time”.
This was further exacerbated by the fact that education had never been easy for Ng growing up, with him “never having really enjoyed academic success, even…as a child”.
“It definitely affected me psychologically in many ways, etching in me a mindset of fear and self-doubt that made me think I didn’t have the ability to pursue higher education. “
Similarly, the early years of 35-year-old Muhammad Firdaus were fraught with difficulties.
“I come from a broken family. My parents were separated. My aunts took care of my siblings while I lived with my father at that time. I had no friends at the time. My father worked long hours just to maintain our basic life.
Besides growing up in a broken family, Firdaus also didn’t perform as well as he hoped in his GCE ‘N’ levels.
He had missed the cut-off point to pass his GCE ‘O’ level exams by a single mark.
Our third profile, Mohamed Solihin, 24, also faced similar challenges to get into his desired NITEC Aerospace Technology course at ITE College Central.
“Fortunately, I took the course. However, my NITEC grades did not reach 3.5 GPA and I was unable to apply for direct entry to a three-year degree course at a government polytechnic. Despite two years of effort in ITE, I felt demoralized by my results and confused about my future academic path.
What motivated them
Many of us know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed as a teenager – it can be very demoralizing.
So what motivated Firdaus, Solihin and Ng to bounce back from these setbacks?
Well, all three profiles have different but equally inspiring stories to share.
About three years after passing his GCE ‘O’ level exams and undergoing National Service (NS), Ng got a job at a fitness club where he met his manager Aaron Lee, who motivated him to pursue a degree in sports and exercise sciences at PSB Académie.
Besides encouraging Ng, Lee made it easier for Ng to study part-time by adjusting his work schedule.
During his graduating years at PSB Academy, Ng encountered great lecturers such as Edger Tham and Ong Kaifen.
They were “very passionate about teaching” and “always made the lessons interesting by implementing application tools to facilitate student learning”.
After graduating in 2015, Ng took a break from pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science (Top-up) at PSB Academy, one of Singapore’s largest educational institutions known for its collaborations with foreign universities.
“I had never thought of completing a bachelor’s degree because of my mindset mentioned above, doubting my own academic abilities,” Ng admitted.
“However, my spouse and my family believed in me and motivated me, which made me start believing in myself.”
In addition, Ng’s graduate lecturer, Tham, gave him great motivation.
“At the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had a conversation via LinkedIn, during which he shared quality information with me and encouraged me. I remember he told me “Focus on your passion and the rest will follow”.
Along those same lines, Solihin told us that he tried to stay positive after receiving his NITEC results, including reading books, interacting with peers, and getting advice from family members.
“I set goals and tackled them one by one. Instead of comparing myself to others, I tried to improve myself. I became more adventurous in learning new skills and knowledge that I felt were worth investing in.
Ultimately, Solihin’s desire to pursue higher education inspired him to explore other alternatives, such as a Bachelor of Engineering with Honors in Mechanical Engineering at PSB Academy.
In addition to offering industry-relevant engineering courses, PSB Academy provided Solihin with a structured educational path from foundational studies to a degree, and finally to a degree.
Meanwhile, Firdaus had a more disturbing story to tell.
“You don’t have the basic qualifications.”
“You don’t have the basic education. We cannot employ you.
“You are not qualified for this job.”
These are a few words of rejection that Firdaus faced in interviews from 2010 to 2019.
This was despite the fact that Firdaus knew he was both able to work and learn skills quickly.
Faced with these challenges, Firdaus did his research and eventually found his way to an internship program run by ITE.
What spurred him on to take his education even further was when his then girlfriend (now wife) offered to sponsor his part-time business (logistics) degree.
“Where I am right now is a product of his confidence in me.”
In 2018, Firdaus completed a second class diploma in Project Management while working at VIKING Life-Saving Equipment as a Customer Service Planner.
However, it wasn’t long before Firdaus began to wonder where he was in life.
“Over the past five years, I’ve had a job that I’m great at, got a degree, got married and had two kids. I was too comfortable and I I was bored. I asked myself: “What do I do with this degree? ” “Where do I want to go? ” “What’s next? I even asked these questions to my wife. She was not able to answer them.
At the end of 2018, the organization in which Firdaus worked acquired another maritime services organization.
At the start of the company’s restructuring, the duplicate roles were dismantled.
Luckily for Firdaus, the department he worked in was crucial to the organization, which led him to this epiphany: “I have to prepare for the future! I need to be in technology! “.
After doing his research, Firdaus narrowed down the technology area he wanted to specialize in to three areas: cloud, machine learning, and cybersecurity.
He decided to take the PSB Academy’s one-year part-time degree in Network Defense and Forensic Countermeasures because it was both the quickest and most cost-effective option for him.
How PSB Academy helped them
Firdaus shared that PSB Academy helped him “build bridges and gateways to the tech world”:
“The great thing about part-time studies is that most of the students are working adults. They have in hand real experiences and up-to-date industrial practices. My PSB Academy classmates, in particular, were a great help in understanding technical concepts and jargon in simple terms, and the program itself was effective in transitioning me into a cybersecurity.
A similar view was also shared by Ng, who said the teachers at PSB Academy were “really inspiring and invested in helping students learn”:
“I was not a fast learner in studies, which made studying difficult, as usual. But my teachers played a huge role in my academic success at Edinburgh Napier University in the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science (top-up). Ms. Mariam, Mr. Mark, Dr. Tan Juay Seng and Mr. Khaliq are committed lecturers who will spend more time with their students after class or even on their own time, making sure we understand the subject being taught.
Ng’s views were echoed by Solihin, who added that “understanding and encouraging lecturers” helped him throughout his academic journey at PSB Academy:
“PSB Academy offers a good balance between study and life in academia, while providing students with time to enjoy networking with peers and advisors. The environment is multinational and friendly, and we work with people of different nationalities. Throughout my time at PSB Academy, I have grown to appreciate the school’s effective learning management system, well-defined course structure, clear learning objectives as well as knowledgeable lecturers. ”
Plans for the future and advice for others
Ultimately, the three PSB Academy alumni hope to use their life experiences to help others.
For Solihin who hopes to hone his skills and one day become a successful engineer, a secondary aspiration would be to coach or teach young people.
Elsewhere, Firdaus hopes to discover amazing technologies and build some of his own, and become a person who leads with empathy, helping them along their journeys.
Ng, who currently works as a head coach for children, expressed a desire to continue in the sports education industry.
He also hopes to dive into the health sector in the future, treating adults or the elderly with chronic diseases and improving cardiovascular function or even treating children with dyspraxia.
And he had some words of wisdom for those who doubt themselves, just as he did many years ago:
“Don’t doubt yourself because no one was born to fail at everything. To share a quote I love, “You’re halfway there when you stop doubting and start believing.”
This PSB Academy sponsored article inspired this writer to consider going back to school.