More than just book smart

Turning 29 this year, Ms Ng Wen Xun is a good few years older than many of her classmates at Curtin Singapore, the local campus of the well-known Australian university.

While many come straight fromn secondary school, junior college or polytechnic, Ms Ng has gone through all that as well as worked for seven years at a local IT firm before recommencing her studies in 2014.

She passed her O levels at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School in 2003, but later dropped out of St Andrew's Junior College just before her Alevel examinations. Going on to Nanyang Polytechnic, she again left school, this time within half a year because she did not feel it was a good fit.

At 20, she started working parttime at an IT firm. Here, she found her groove, spending seven years in various departments. Yet, she yearned to complete her studies.

She says: "Naturally as I grew older, there was the recognition that I had to grow professionally."

She is now studying for a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Accounting and Finance, at Curtin Singapore. She expects to graduate by the end of this year.

She started with a foundation course at Curtin, followed by a diploma in commerce, before she commenced her degree programme.

For students who have passed their O levels, the university now offers a more streamlined pathway that provides a diploma after 16 months of study and a bachelor's degree in another 16 months.

"The faster track is great for those who wish to attain their degrees faster," says Ms Ng. However, just as important is the quality of the degree, which is conferred from the main campus in Australia.

"I did not want to go through the motions of just obtaining any degree in order to get a certificate of higher education. It was important for my studies to add value to myself," she says. "It was important me that the degree was accredited by CPA Australia, so that I could continue on to a professional certification if I so wished in future. The accreditation was also further proof to me that Curtin's course would be of a certain standard," she adds.

Having said that, she also stresses the importance of developing skills such as presentation, report writing and critical thinking.

"Given today's fast-paced world, I believe it is important to pick up these skills rather than just book knowledge," she says.

She is grateful that Curtin enables her to gain important skills through a course with academic rigour, while giving her a rounded education that is not just based on exams alone.

She says: "For older adult learners like me, Curtin is an open, diverse institution, which allows us to pick up where we left o many years ago without much issues. In fact, having working knowledge is an advantage as it allows me to quickly see the links between the lessons and real world application.

"As adult learners, I think we gain the focus we failed to have in our youth, and this can only place us in good stead in our studies as long as we put in the required effort."

This article was first published on January 12, 2016.
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