The O-level results came out a few days back and the usual top talent spotting took place – just like every other year. It is usually some students from some top schools, although this pattern is beginning to fade as more talent come in from overseas. This year is one of those years. Haw Sue Hern from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, scored 10 A1s, and topped the cohort this year. She’s from Malaysia and was here on a scholarship without bond.

I don’t have anything against people who come to Singapore on scholarships. Neither do I have any problems with the top student not being a Singapore. For that matter, I feel that education should be made to anyone who’s interested in it and there should not be any discrimination on the recipient. What caught my attention was how the local papers seem to be highlighting on her leaving Singapore and pursuing her studies elsewhere.

I would think that it’s completely her prerogative to go to anywhere in the world she wants, although I quietly suspects that not everyone agrees with me (well, I can’t please the world =P). I am not sure how many people know about this, but a lot of students from overseas come to Singapore to get their Ph.D and return to their home country to do great stuffs. As a matter of fact, we are losing a lot of postgraduate students every semester, but the value of the Ph.D probably lies a lot in the quality of work done by them. Whether we are losing *top* Ph.D students is another story, but I’d think that for a foreigner to come here on scholarships, they should have been… erm, well-screened (although I really hate to use this word).

So, at that context, I don’t really think Singapore is really afraid of losing talents – especially so when we are losing Ph.D scholars by the dozens. It just seemed strange that the papers would highlight this, perhaps, unusual path that Sue Hern is taking. Well, one man’s meat *could be* another man’s poison. =) What has been working well here may not necessarily work well for her in the future, especially so if she wants to be a doctor. =)

Having said that, there’s been this issue of “brain-drain”, where apparently, *local talent* are leaving for the seemingly greener side of the grass. This issue was probably brought up many times even in political discussions – on how we can retain local talent. I don’t remember anything coming out of it because I still see many of my Singaporean friends leaving for overseas where they thrive. So, should I say that they are weak and left to vie against overseas competitors. If that statement is true, am I implying that overseas competitors are weaker?


I am not implying anything, but rather, I am just a little uncomfortably about the government calling these people Quitters. What is strange is that when these people come back successful, they are welcomed with open-arms (although I don’t know what happens when they return a “failure”). So, does it mean that if I were to leave Singapore today, I will be deemed a Quitter until I come back to Singapore successful? So, if I come back a failure, am I still deemed a Quitter-cum-Failure?

I hate to think about it.

Top student to say farewell?

Best O-level performer may opt for private institution in Selangor

By Amelia Tan

SINGAPORE’S top O-level student was not here to collect her results and may not even continue her studies in Singapore.

Haw Sue Hern, from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, had just returned to her home in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, after a holiday in Beijing when she learnt of her results. Her family had planned their holiday before the announcement last week that the O-level results would be released yesterday.

Sue Hern’s score of 10 A1s made her the top O-level performer out of 36,640 students this year.

‘I am so surprised with the results… I wish I could collect my results personally but my parents had planned the holiday already,’ she said in a phone interview.

Her father is an engineer and her mother, a teacher in Malaysia.

Sue Hern and her younger sister, a Secondary 3 student at the same school, lived in a hostel here during the school term.

The 16-year-old attended CHIJ St Nicholas on a scholarship which did not have a bond. ‘I was scared to come to Singapore all by myself but I was impressed by how friendly the teachers were. My parents encouraged me too,’ she said.

Her secret to success was consistent hard work, she added. ‘I did my revision regularly and reviewed past test papers.’

She is currently enrolled in an 11-month pre-university course at Taylor’s University College, a private education institution in Subang Jaya, Selangor. The triple-science student has not decided whether to continue with the course or enrol in a junior college in Singapore. She hopes to become a doctor eventually.

Her form teacher, Ms Quek Soo Hiang, said she was surprised when Sue Hern told her after her O-level exams in November that she would be returning to Malaysia to study, and was not going on to a junior college here.

‘I wish that she would stay on in Singapore but it is her choice,’ said Ms Quek.

Finishing close behind Sue Hern was her classmate and fellow Malaysian Cheong Jia Ee, and Anderson Secondary student Low Wan Ting. Both of them scored nine A1s and one A2.

Jia Ee, 16, is planning to study at ACS (Independent), Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) or Raffles Institution.

‘I’ve known Sue Hern since Primary 1 when we were in the same school in Malaysia. I am happy that both of us did so well in the O levels,’ she said.

Wan Ting, 16, though ecstatic with her results, said the only blemish on her record is the A2 she got for German. She will be applying for a place at HCI.

The top Indian student was Jharyathri Thiagarajah from Cedar Girls’ Secondary, who got nine A1s. The top Eurasian students were Rebekah Jiashan Broughton from CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) and Jared Ryan Durnford from Tanjong Katong Secondary. Both got seven A1s and one A2.

Nearly all – 99.9 per cent – of those who sat for last year’s O levels received certificates. Of these, 80.8 per cent or 29,592 had five or more O-level passes, while 94.6 per cent or 34,675 had three or more O-level passes.

Normal (Academic) students also did well. Last year, 4,254 or 32.4 per cent of the Sec 4 Normal (Academic) students sat for one to two O-level subjects and 90.5 per cent of them got at least one O-level pass.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 14th January 2009 – 12 more days to Chinese New Year! 🙂

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