THIS year's top Secondary 5 students have credited their co-curricular activities with pushing them to do well in the O-level exams.
Raymond Liu from Dunman Secondary and Mayflower Secondary's Toh Li Ping both scored five A1s and one A2.
According to Raymond, being a Boy Scout taught him to be disciplined and to always do his best - values he says were instilled by the Scout Law and Promise. It was discipline that got him preparing early for the O levels, said the youngest child of a tax director and housewife.
'If you start early, you can set your goals and improve progressively for the mid-year exams and prelims. Then when you reach the O levels, you can do much better,' said Raymond, who hopes to study accounting and finance in Temasek Polytechnic.
Li Ping, 17, said she learnt the importance of hard work from her CCA, Indian dance.
'From not being able to dance, I was able to master the dance steps after one year of practising and helped my school clinch a silver medal in the Singapore Youth Festival three years ago,' said the eldest child of a delivery driver and housewife, who plans to study biomedical science in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
This year also saw the graduation of the first batch of 1,100 students who skipped the N-level examinations when they were in Secondary 4, and moved straight on to do the O levels in Secondary 5.
This programme was offered to top-performing Normal (Academic) students at the end of Secondary 3 to give them more time to focus on preparing for the O levels.
Anderson Secondary was one of the schools that offered this option to their students.
Its first group of 30 students were selected based on their academic results at the end of Secondary 3.
The class' form teacher, Mr Poh Chun Leck, said that his students had extra time to prepare for the O levels because they did not have to do the N levels as well.
'The requirements of both exams are different so without the N levels, they can just zoom in and spend two years studying for the O levels,' he said.
As a result, the school produced its best showing in five years, said principal Poh Mun See.
'With the freed-up time, we came up with a more rigorous curriculum to stretch them and accelerate learning,' said Mrs Poh.
One of the top scorers was Joseph Ang, 17, who scored 4 A1s and two B3s.
'I didn't feel so much pressure and had more time to prepare for the O levels,' he said.
'Ultimately, it's the O levels that count.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times on January 13, 2009.