Tue, Jun 15, 2010
The Straits Times
'A' for Uncle Earnest

By Lee Wei Ling

I attended Nanyang primary and secondary schools up to Secondary 4. Chinese was the medium of instruction for all the subjects in these schools.

After Sec 4, I switched to Raffles Institution (RI) in preparation for entering medical school. Much as I was sorry to leave my Nanyang friends, I was relieved of the strain of studying science subjects and mathematics using English textbooks while the teachers taught in Chinese. As I knew I was going to study medicine, I thought I should learn to cope with scientific English while in pre-university.

When I left Nanyang, I was a balanced bilingual student, equally at home in English and Chinese. My mother, a Cambridge-trained lawyer, spoke English to me and corrected any mistakes I made. Hence my command of English was as good as that of my peers in RI. My years in Nanyang had ensured that I was fairly well informed about Chinese history and culture, but I was largely ignorant of the history and culture of the rest of the world.

My first contact with the General Paper (GP) was after my admission to RI. I was warned by my friends in RI that GP was the stumbling block for many a science student. Often the spoiler in a string of straight 'As', it demanded more than a good command of English to do well in.

After my first GP class, I realised that I lacked knowledge in many areas that my Chinese science stream education had not touched on. So for the two years that I was in pre-university at RI, I spent every Wednesday afternoon at my Uncle Earnest's house for tuition.

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