Changkat Changi Secondary School student Kevin Cheong went from being a self-proclaimed failure at Secondary 3 to scoring nine points for his N-level exams this year.
It is a huge change for the Normal (Academic) student who so hated school that he played truant and even blocked the school's number on his mother's phone to prevent his teachers from reaching her.
But a meeting with the school counsellor changed him, mended the mother-son relationship and set him on a course to clock 10 hours a day as he prepared for the N levels.
Kevin had to repeat Secondary 3 in 2014 after failing most of the subjects the previous year.
Feeling like an outcast, he lied to his mother, a single parent, and skipped school, spending most of his time playing console games.
"I kept asking myself, why am I waking up so early to go to school every day, when I'm not even doing well?"
Things did not improve when he took the N-level exams last year. He scored 18 points for the five papers he sat.
Because he had failed Principles of Accounts, his options were limited to a Nitec course at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
The 18-year-old decided to give the N levels another shot, studying for 10 hours every day. This time, he scored nine points.
It qualifies him for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme for Normal (Academic) students, a one-year course conducted by polytechnic lecturers which lets eligible students skip the O levels before entering a related diploma course.
The programme offers about 1,200 places.
Kevin intends to apply to Temasek Polytechnic to study law and management.
Of the 12,305 students from the Normal (Academic) course who collected their results yesterday, 75.2 per cent did well enough to be promoted to Secondary 5 and go on to take the O-level exams.
This is an increase from the 74.9 per cent who did so last year.
Of those who took the exam from the Normal (Academic) stream, 99.6 per cent passed, compared with last year's 99.5 per cent.
In the Normal (Technical) stream, 97.1 per cent of the 5,470 students who took the exams this year passed, compared with 96.6 per cent last year.
These Normal (Technical) students can apply to the ITE, or laterally transfer to the Secondary 4 Normal (Academic) course if they got an A for English and mathematics, and at least a B for one other subject.
They can then go on to Secondary 5 to take the O-level exams.
The first batch of students to graduate from Crest Secondary School, the first specialised school catering to Normal (Technical) students, also collected their results yesterday.
Students at the school take a four-year academic programme leading to the N levels, similar to their peers.
But they also learn vocational skills, and most graduate with an ITE Skills Certification in facility services, mechanical servicing, retail services or hospitality services.
At Crest, 98 per cent of its 198 graduating students passed the N-level exams, while 34 of them have accepted offers from the ITE via a scheme that considers their abilities related to courses and skills in leadership, sports or the arts.
This article was first published on December 20, 2016.
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