By LIEW HANQING
THEY once had the dubious honour of being Yishun Secondary School's most notorious troublemakers.
According to their teachers, they played truant, got into fights, were regulars in the detention room and were on the brink of getting expelled.
But childhood friends Jonathan Wong and Toh Hong Sheng, both 16, were all smiles when they collected their N-level results yesterday.
Jonathan scored two grade 3s, two Grade 2s and a Grade 4 with an aggregate score of 14, while Hong Sheng scored three grade 3s and two grade 4s, with an aggregate score of 17.
Both will be promoted to Sec 5 and will sit for their O levels next year.
To be promoted, students must have an aggregate not exceeding 19 points in English, mathematics and their best three subjects, and a Grade 5 or better for both English and mathematics.
The pair, who have known each other since they were 3, told The New Paper their downward spiral began when they were in Sec 1.
Said Hong Sheng: 'We used to hang out at video game arcades and LAN gaming shops all the time, and mixed with bad company. We would skip school every week to play computer games like Counter-strike.'
The discipline master caught them many times playing games during school hours.
Said Hong Sheng's basketball coach, Mr Chan Chee Kong, 52, who is also a teacher at Yishun Secondary: 'Hong Sheng used to be quite hot-tempered and aggressive on the courts, and I would have to break up his fights. He used to skip training too.'
Jonathan recalled that his 'brothers' from the LAN gaming shop were also fond of shoplifting 'just for fun'.
On one occasion, a friend shoplifted and ran off, leaving him to his own devices.
He said: 'I realised that they were the kind of people who would not hesitate to frame you, or ignore you if you get into trouble.'
So he decided to distance himself from them.
Hong Sheng said the constant encouragement of Yishun Secondary's former principal, Mr Goh Choon Leng, made him decide to turn over a new leaf.
Added Jonathan: 'Mr Goh told us to think about our future. And whenever we got into trouble, he would be forgiving and try to help us. He encouraged us and called us regularly to check how we were doing.'
Mr Goh left Yishun Secondary last December and is now training allied educators at the National Institute of Education.
Jonathan recalled a period where he was perpetually late for school. 'My teachers would even give me wake-up calls in the morning,' he said, smiling.
Jonathan, who has been in the same class as Hong Sheng all the way from nursery to Sec 4, said he felt motivated when he noticed Hong Sheng's grades gradually improving.
He said: 'I felt a little jealous, so I tried to do better myself 'we were always trying to beat each other.'
Madam Azizah Abdul Rahim, 55, who taught them English, social studies and geography, added: 'They became really competitive. Once, Jonathan scored a few marks below Hong Sheng and he asked if I could give him extra marks so he could beat him.'
Added Mr Chan: 'Hong Sheng's behaviour on the basketball court changed too. If another player tried to pick a fight, he would walk away.'
After their O levels next year, both students plan to goon to a local polytechnic.
Hong Sheng, whose father is a supervisor in the marine industry and mother, a housewife, said he plans to study 'something IT-related'. He has an older brother who is in National Service.
Jonathan, who lives with his divorced mother and two older brothers, said: 'I hope to study something related to environmental science.'
On their achievements, Madam Azizah said: 'As teachers, all we did was try to help them start afresh. They did most of it on their own.'
N LEVELS IN NAMES
This year's top Sec 4 Normal(Academic) students each scored an aggregate of six. They are:
Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)
Bedok Green Secondary
Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School
Thetop students for the Normal(Technical) course scored sixAs each.Theyare:
LEE LI YI
Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School
GOH JIA HUI
Yishun Town Secondary
This article was first published in The New Paper.