Degree after 35 years

Why do people do the things they do?

That was the question constantly on Mr Yam Hai Law's mind since his secondary school days.

He was interested in psychology, but his poor O-level results prevented him from furthering his studies.

He never gave up. And now, more than 35 years later, he has not only achieved his dream of getting a degree in psychology, but has also ended up as one of the top students in his cohort.

Mr Yam, 51, did not do well in secondary school as he was playful and did not concentrate on his studies.

After completing his O levels, he became a regular with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). He studied for two other diplomas - in resource management and organisational psychology - while in his 30s.

He said: "The more I learnt about psychology, the more I wanted to go even deeper to gain new knowledge."

This interest resulted in him volunteering to be a para-counsellor with RSAF in 2005.

After undergoing assessment and training, he counsels men who have problems adjusting to military life or are going through family issues.

In 2010, with the support and encouragement of his family, he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Psychology with Counselling course at the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), awarded by the University of Bradford in the UK.

He said: "It was not easy to start studying again. It took time for my 'engine' to start."

After four years of juggling work and studies, Mr Yam finally received his degree at the 19th MDIS-University of Bradford graduation ceremony last Saturday.

He graduated with first class honours, and was ranked third in his cohort of 21 students.

Mr Yam, who is still a regular with RSAF, said: "It was a personal challenge and I had a strong sense of achievement after finally getting my degree."


He had always wanted to further his studies, but kept putting it off as he felt the time wasn't right.

The father of two children, aged 23 and 20, said: "I wanted to wait for my kids to grow up, and for my career to be stabilised."

As his course required him to do a lot of research, he sacrificed most of his free time after work and during the weekends studying in the MDIS library or pouring over online articles. He would spend about three hours each time in the library.

Although the other students were younger, he did not find it awkward to ask for help.

He said: "We would share notes and explain concepts to each other."

For mature students who are thinking of furthering their studies while juggling their work commitments, Mr Yam says determination is key.

He said: "Don't let age hold you back from pursuing your passion. Success is not guaranteed, but the satisfaction you get is worth all the effort."

Mr Yam will continue to stay on with the RSAF, but believes that his degree will allow him to have more options after retirement. He said: "Who knows what will happen in the future?"

Don't let age hold you back from pursuing your passion. Success is not guaranteed, but the satisfaction you get is worth all the effort.

This article was first published on November 26, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.