IT WAS a move that paid off handsomely for Madam Zainab Abdul Rashid.
She 'promoted' herself alongside her daughter, Dinah Aziz, 17, as the latter went through her secondary school years.
Not as a student but as a tutor.
Madam Zainab, 44, gave tuition classes to students in the same year as Dinah, progressing from one level to the next as her daughter was promoted from Secondary 1 to Secondary 3.
When her daughter got to Secondary 4, she stopped tutoring others and concentrated on teaching her daughter alone.
Said Madam Zainab: 'I thought by giving tuition that way, it'll be easier for Dinah to approach me as and when she needs help with her homework.'
Dinah, a student at the Madrasah Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah Madrasah in Geylang, achieved nine distinctions for the O-level examinations she sat for in October last year.
It was a record-breaking performance, for Dinah is the first student in the history of the madrasah to score 7 A1s. The previous best was 5 A1s.
Dinah got A1s in English, Malay, Additional and Elementary Mathematics, Pure Biology, Islamic Religious Knowledge, and Combined Physics and Chemistry.
She had A2s for Pure Geography and Arabic.
She also took six other subjects pertaining to Religion and got four distinctions - for Tauhid, Quran, Hadith and Sirah - and two 'Very Good' grades for Fiqh and Tafsir.
She attributed her achievement to her family, school and teachers.
When asked her thoughts on how she had fared, she said: 'I am very happy with it because it's a pretty good result. I am thankful to everyone who helped me. My parents, family, school and teachers all played a big part in my success.'
Dinah hopes to enter Raffles Junior College to continue her 'family tradition' - both her grandfather and her father are old Rafflesians.
Of her longer-term dreams, she said: 'I hope to be a doctor. Or engage in Islamic banking, or even be a lawyer.'
Madam Zainab chipped in: 'CSI made science look so sexy, she is thinking of doing forensic science.
'That's why she aims to go to a Science stream in a JC, and not to a poly because then she would have to choose a career path immediately.'
Dinah is the eldest of six children and, said her mother, was 'a big help'.
Said Madam Zainab, who recently stopped giving tuition to help in her husband's engineering consultancy firm: 'When we had a maid, the maid was in charge only of the chores. Dinah would help out with the diaper changing and bathing of her youngest brother, who is still a baby.'
Her O-level results are not totally unexpected - Dinah also topped the madrasah during her PSLE in 2004 with a t-score of 255. (In comparison, the top PSLE pupil that year scored 285.)
Dinah's principal, Ms Sukarti Asmoin, described her as attentive, polite and hardworking, adding: 'The teachers don't have to ask her to study.'
She also mentioned that Dinah had taken part in MediaCorp game show The Arena, in which two school teams face-off in a debate.
Said Ms Sukarti: 'She was not distracted (by The Arena), but remained focused on her studies.'
To encourage her peers, Dinah quoted Barack Obama's slogan: 'Yes, we can!'
She explained: 'You have to try your best and believe you can do it. Sometimes people might tell you that you can't do it because your school does not have enough facilities.
'But I think that if you really want to and try hard enough, you can do it.'
Audrey Tan Ruiping, newsroom intern
This article was first published in The Straits Times on January 15, 2009.