By Yeo Shang Long
AS THE rest of their cohort frets over the release of the A-level results today, four students can rest easy.
The students from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) have already bagged places at top universities in China, with scholarships to boot.
Two of the four scholars - Mr Loh Hong Sheng, 18, and Ms Ong Hui Kuan, 19, are bound for Tsinghua University in Beijing, while Ms Yeo Hwee Yanne, 18, and Ms Chew Ting Zhen, 18 are heading to Fudan University in Shanghai.
They are the first to receive the bondfree scholarships sponsored by these universities, under a partnership with HCI.
After reviewing HCI's programmes, Tsinghua and Fudan decided to award places to the students based on their HCI diplomas, rather than their A-level results.
The diploma, launched two years ago, is awarded to the top 50 per cent of HCI graduates. This 'through train' programme aims to groom bilingual and bicultural leaders, said an HCI spokesman.
Mr Loh agreed: 'With both Asian and Western know-how, I have the best of both worlds.' He added that immersion in Chinese culture will make him a 'versatile and culturally sensitive individual'.
Currently in national service, Mr Loh originally wanted to study in Britain but changed his mind on a trip to China when he was in Secondary 3. He looks forward to 'living and breathing traditions while witnessing lightning changes' when studying economics at Tsinghua.
For Ms Chew - who will read Chinese language and literature - the main pull of China is quite different: 'There is no better place to learn something than from its source.'
Calling it her passion, she hopes to land a job that puts her in contact with the Chinese language, possibly as a teacher or journalist.
Aside from giving outstanding students the chance to study in these universities, 'the friendship and camaraderie fostered during their undergraduate days can help to further strengthen the China-Singapore diplomacy', said HCI principal, Dr Hon Chiew Weng.
Said Ms Ong: 'Going to China to pursue my studies enables me to broaden my horizons as well as my social circle.'
As a testament to the HCI diploma, the scholars were exempted from the pre-admission university entrance tests international students have to take.
Currently, three other universities recognise the HCI diploma for direct admission - Peking University, Warwick University in Britain and the School of Information Systems at Singapore Management University.
Peking University is also offering scholarships to HCI students, but has not confirmed its choice of students yet.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.