MORE primary school students are choosing Loyang Secondary as their school of choice.
It has recently won many awards and enrolment is up.
One reason for the turnaround is the unusual steps the school takes to improve its students.
One example: Principal Mrs Lu Kheng Lui, 58, challenged her students to speak like her on stage.
It was no ego booster, said Mrs Lu.
The objective behind it was to get students speak to audiences with authority and confidence - like how a principal would.
As she pointed out: 'To speak to the whole school requires a different level of confidence as compared to one-on-one communication.'
This move helped the school beat Raffles Institution to clinch a semi-final spot in the televised debate series The Arena in January this year.
The 'speak like me' challenge was made and implemented in 2002. The school-wide public speaking programme involved all 1,500 students.
The 20-minute programme, which usually has six students speaking on certain issues of the day, takes place twice a week after the flag-raising ceremony. English sessions are on Mondays and mother tongue ones are on Fridays.
Typically, students get to hone their oratory skills at least once during their four years.
Other than this exposure to real audiences, all Sec 2 students also get to go through a six-hour public speaking course.
The school employed Julia Gabriel, a speech and drama centre, to teach students skills like proper pronunciation, the importance of eye contact, and getting a point across.
The school declined to reveal the cost of this course.
The programme has helped to boost the confidence of students like Koh Yan Fen, 15, a Sec 4 express student.
Four years ago, she had her first taste of what it felt like to be Mrs Lu.
Then, in front of the microphone, her hands 'trembled non-stop'.
But the constant preparation helped and she made it through. She was even part of the team in The Arena.
Other schoolmates who displayed confidence in the spotlight include Shawn Tok, 13, from Sec 1. Shawn won the reality singing competition, Campus Superstar, last month.
Last year, the school also won the sustained achievement award (uniformed group), the sustained achievement award (physical fitness), a silver for academic value-added (normal) and a bronze for academic value-added (express).
The numbers say something about how well Loyang Secondary is doing.
In terms of enrolment, the school has boosted its figures by more than half - from 1,000 students in 2001 to the current 1,500.
SCHOOL OF CHOICE
The number of students who pick the school as one of their first two choices has also jumped substantially.
In 2002, only 18 students chose the school. Last year, the number was 191.
That shift in mindset is apparent in students like Derek Yeo, 16, a Sec 4 express student, who initially had a poor image of the school.
The school wasn't his first choice, but his fourth.
He said: 'The school, through different platforms like CCAs, public speaking and camps, has helped us to improve ourselves.
'It's brought me much further than I ever thought I could be.'