Liew Hanqing
Sun, Feb 10, 2008
The New Paper
Kaki Bukit Prison School produces top O-Level private candidate

HE is Singapore's top O-level private candidate.

And he was from the Kaki Bukit Prison School.

A former inmate in his 20s, he outshone all the private candidates in Singapore, scoring A1s in English, Mathematics D, Science (Physics/Biology), Principles of Accounts and Combined Humanities.

He has since been released from prison and could not be reached for comment.

And he is not the first from the school to have done so well in the examinations.

Since 2004, there have been 13 students from the school who scored five A1s or more in the O levels.

In addition, 88 per cent of its students scored three passes or more in last year's O-level exams.

And what's most amazing is this - while ordinary secondary school students take four years to prepare for their O levels, these students achieved these results after just a one-year crashcourse.

It may seem like an unlikely hotbed for top students, but the Kaki Bukit Prison School has quietly helped inmates achieve what others might deem impossible.

Ms Grace Seow, deputy head of the prison education branch, described the prison school's top student this year as one who 'did consistently well'.

'These inmates sit for the same exams as mainstream students, but they don't have the luxury of a full four-year programme.

'They are expected to prepare for the Olevels in just one year.'

Ms Seow said the inmates use textbooks recommended by the Ministry of Education, which are the same as those used in mainstream schools.

Teachers at the prison school are a mixture of full-time and part-time teachers from the Education Ministry.

Most inmates attend about four hours of lessons every morning.

Some do well enough to take the A-level exams, and to apply for polytechnics.

'The students are expected to do a lot of independent learning. It's a challenge they must overcome to achieve their aspirations,' she said.

And it's not just the O levels. Inmates can obtain other paper qualifications in the prison school, including their N levels, general ITE education and NITEC (computer technology and networking).

The school also offers courses in Microsoft Office skills and webpage design.

There are non-academic programmes for the inmates, which include enrichment activities like gardening, table tennis, drama and street soccer.

The school also runs a Family Involvement Programme, which includes talks and workshops to inform inmates' families about crime-related issues and how they can provide support for the inmates.

From wild child to model student

NOT so long ago, this model student was stuck in the wild side of life.

He had only a PSLE-level education, and he was mean and violent.

But all that ended when he got involved in a gang fight which took a man's life.

Adam (not his real name), 28, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and 16 strokes of the rotan in 2004 for voluntarily causing hurt.

Now, he has completed his O levels and is an avid painter at the Kaki Bukit Prison School.

He scored a C6 for English and B3s for Mathematics D, Principles of Accounts, Religious Knowledge and Art last year.

He said: 'When I first stepped into Queenstown Remand, I told the prison officer I needed to do something to redeem myself.'

He had just one year to prepare for the O levels, but he was undeterred.

He recalled: 'I wondered how I would cope - it's a huge gap between the PSLE and O levels.

'But the environment here has been really supportive and encouraging.'

He put in an extra hour or two of work every day on top of class time.

Before his exams, he would wake up around 4am every day for prayers, study for an hour, then go to class.

'I had to work especially hard for maths, which was my worst subject,' he said.

Though he has resolved to put his old life behind him, Adam said he is still haunted by his chequered past.

The eldest of five children, Adam came from a broken home, and had been heavily involved in gangsterism since he was 13.

'Back then, all I had were my friends. We sold pirated VCDs, got into fights, stole things - all kinds of illegal activities,' he said.

But the wake-up call came when he realised he had caused somebody's death.

He said: 'I wasn't very sober the night of the incident. I found out about the man's death only the next day.

'When I think about it now, I still feel terrified.'

He says he hopes to eventually make peace with the victim's family.

'But I first need to change myself, and regain the trust of my own family,' he said.

Being behind bars, he says, has made him a changed man.

'I used to be very rowdy and defiant, and I had a bad temper. But I think I've become a lot more mature,' he said.


It was also in prison that he discovered his passion for art, which he took as an O-level subject.

Adam has considered taking his Alevels, but says he would rather pursue a diploma in graphic design orIT.

He is now learning to use graphic design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and Maya at the prison school's multimedia hub.

'It's what I enjoy most,' he said.

Continuing his education in prison, he added, has helped keep him focused.

He said: 'What I've learnt here hasn't just been academic. I've learnt the value of discipline.

'This school has played a huge role in the reconstruction of my life.'


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