Looking back at my early teenage years in 2011, or even childhood for that matter, I was always quite the playful child.
I remember the days when I was in Primary School where I refused to do my schoolwork and instead chose to spend most of my time in the playground or on my family’s PlayStation 2.
Needless to say, when PSLE year came around, nothing had changed and I was still going along with my carefree lifestyle.
I only wanted to play soccer at the void deck and enjoy my $1 ice cream from the ice cream uncle.
Any guesses for what I eventually got for PSLE? If you guessed 169, you’re absolutely correct. My height was literally a bigger number than my PSLE score.
Honestly, by the saving grace of God, I managed to get into ACS (Barker Road) in the Normal Academic (NA) stream after graduating from ACS (Primary).
I clearly hadn’t learnt my lesson at the time, squandering my opportunity to get into the Express stream in Secondary 2.
Thankfully, back in 2013, the Ministry of Education launched two new programmes for NA students called the Polytechnic Foundation Programme as well as the Direct-Entry-Scheme to Polytechnic Programme (DPP).
Looking at those two programmes, that was the point in my life where I started to realise I needed to get, at the very least, a diploma or a degree to survive in Singapore.
So, I decided I needed to clean up my act and get my life together.
As such, Secondary 3 onwards was the turning point in my life. I started to put more effort into my studies.
On top of that, I focused on the sport I was really passionate about — rugby.
It really made me a better person and opened up so many doors for me down the road, but more on that later.
Every day after school, I would make the effort to head home immediately and study till my parents brought me out for dinner.
I was focused. Secondary 4 rolled around, I surprised everyone and put in so much effort into my studies that everyone thought I’d make the PFP programme.
But God really had other plans. I scored 13 points for my N-Level examinations. 2 points short.
Words cannot express how devastated I was when I saw that number.
I was so angry with God that I was now caught between a rock and a hard place: either do one more year in Secondary 5, or do the DPP which involved going into the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
After spending a lot of time talking to my parents and also to God, I made the very difficult decision at that point of my life to forego my Secondary 5 year and pursue the ITE programme.
IT’S NOT THE END
The decision to go to ITE was definitely not an easy one.
Why go to ITE when you can continue to stay in a prestigious secondary school like ACS and do your O-Level examinations in Secondary 5?
Well, firstly, I realised that I was not really a book smart kind of kid. Second, being a true blue ACS boy who took Chinese, I didn’t do very well in that subject unfortunately.
Hence, instead of risking my grades, I decided to undertake a more hands-on course in ITE where I felt that I had the chance to do better.
The challenges did not necessarily come all at once. Instead, they came in bite-sized pieces like the occasional comment about how ITE is filled with hooligans or how it stands for “it’s the end”.
In my experience, the opposite has been true. Going to ITE provided me with hands-on skills as well as the ability to learn at a more controlled pace.
My classmates were generally well behaved kids who actually had plans for their futures like furthering their education in Polytechnic, working in a big company or even just making it out of the current course we were in.
I have always felt that God placed me in this class as He knew that these people were the community in which we would spur each other on to do better than before.
Till this day, seven years later, I still hold them very close to my heart and meet up with them regularly.
What got me through this phase of life was knowing that my life is in God’s hands and He has my best interests at heart.
As long as I did my best and listened to what He had in store for me, I knew I would be doing okay.
ITE also allowed me to have a lot of free time on my hands. That allowed me to volunteer with organisations such as Healthserve, an experience which piqued my interest in the healthcare sector and inspired me to work harder for what I want.
I enjoyed my days with Healthserve, ministering to the migrants through providing healthcare, counselling services and taking part in fundraisers to ensure that the life they have in Singapore is the best it can be.
I find it very funny that God always puts me in a very difficult spots, only to pull me through them. Through it all, I felt that God was showing me that studies aren’t everything — some of us are gifted differently by him.
SURGING PAST STIGMA
Despite the stigma ITE students face, I had the best time there. It taught me how to be a better person and allowed me to pursue my other interests.
The highlight of this part of my life would have been to be able to discover Healthserve and my passion for healthcare.
I was just about to graduate when I was introduced to Healthserve by my dentist.
At that point of my life, all I wanted was money so volunteering didn’t really appeal to me. But I will always be glad that he convinced me to go.
It turned out to be the best decision as it reaffirmed that I really had a gift to use my healthcare knowledge and skills to help the migrant community in Singapore.
Even better, it would be in a Christian community which allowed me to grow more in my faith as well as to give back to God’s people just as He has blessed me.
After graduating from ITE with decent grades, I decided to pursue a diploma in pharmaceutical science to further my knowledge in the healthcare sector.
Looking at my life now, I really have a lot to give thanks to God for. He brought me up from a young immature boy to become a man who really is after God’s own heart.
He allowed me not only to live the best life, but also the most meaningful one.
He has given me so many opportunities to work in a multitude of hospitals and healthcare centers and give back to the community. I was even able to volunteer as a coach for the ACS schools and also bring up the Temasek Polytechnic Rugby Development Team!
God has your best interests at heart.
I am just really thankful that He has looked after me all these years.
From thinking I had no future to being able to pursue a degree in Pharmaceutical Engineering at the Singapore Institute of Technology after I complete my National Service — I truly am blessed.
To anyone reading this, I want you to know that God has your best interests at heart and He will always love and strengthen you through all your days.
To God, I really love You and thank You for all that You’ve done for my life. No words will never be able to fully express that.
- What do you think God wants out of your life as a student?
- Take your worries and anxieties to Him in prayer.
- This week, think about what being a student for God means specifically. Then, live that out!