For majority of my life and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had my future planned out for myself. All I had to do was to follow my perfectly-formulated plan and I was good to go and venture out into the world. It served me well so far, until recently. Before I go into details of my current educational predicament, let me quickly explain how the education system works here in Singapore.
- 2 years in Kindergarten
- 6 years in Primary School
- 4-5 years in Secondary School
An individual may choose one of three to pursue after Secondary School: Junior College (JC), Polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
I’ll be the first to admit that the system here is quite the puzzle to solve but I’ll try and explain it in the simplest of terms. After sitting for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in the last year of Primary School, students will get posted to Secondary School through 3 different streams, all depending on their respective scores for PSLE.
Students in this stream will spend 4 years in Secondary School. After 4 years, graduates will be sitting for a national examination called the GCE O’levels. Once results are released, students can choose to pursue their education in either JC, Polytechnic or ITE. This also depends on the points a student gets, which is the lower the better.
Normal (Academic) Stream
After 4 years, students will be sitting for a national examination known as the GCE N’levels. From there, students can choose to either go to Polytechnic or ITE (again, it depends on their score) or they can opt to go for a 5th year in Secondary School in order to sit for the GCE O’levels.
Normal (Technical) Stream
After 4 years in this stream, students will sit with the N(A) Stream for the GCE N’levels. However, they are not given an option for a 5th year in Secondary School but instead they can continue their studies in ITE. After graduating ITE, they can then choose to go to Polytechnic, provided that their academics are of standard and quality.
Now that that’s all out of the way and explained, here’s my story so far.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very academically-inclined person. Maths and Sciences are not really my forte, and I excel more to the Arts and Languages department. Unfortunately for me, Singapore focuses a lot on the Maths and Sciences of students. I knew from the start I was at a clear disadvantage. Algebra and whatever Polynomial functions are are a foreign language that I am unable to fathom even to the best of my abilities. So months before I took my PSLE, I made it a point to go through Direct School Admission (DSA) so that I was able to nab a spot in a prestigious school through my musical talent. Why worry about grades when I can just play my way into a good school? I went ahead for the audition and got a spot! All I had to do now was to pass all of my subjects and make it into the Express stream. Needless to say, I made it! I miraculously got a B for math and was off to a great school that will allow me to nurture my passion for music while receiving one of the best education.
The first year went by okay, but come the second year, I’ve developed serious anxiety attacks. They occus so often that I was barely in school and my academics started to suffer alongside of me. My parents then transferred me out and into a mediocre neighbourhood school that was far closer to where we were living. There is where I spent the rest of my 4-year journey. On my final year of Secondary School, I was nowhere close to passing maths. I was in trouble for my O’levels. So I did what I had done before: I applied for the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) for a Diploma in Accounting in the top Polytechnic in the country. I went for the interview and surprise, I got the spot! Everything was nice and ready for the execution. In order to get accepted, I had to meet the Minimum Entry Requirements (MER) for my course and score less than 26 points (the lower, the better). Seems pretty doable, right?
Fast forward past the O’level examinations and to Results Day. We were to receive our results in alphabetical order. Guess who had the luck of going first? This is a major turning point that I for one was not fully prepared. I had failed two subjects. I got 21 points and so I’ve hit the first target. I needed to pass my math to meet my MER and get into the course. But alas, I’ve failed my maths. That wasn’t the worst part. Because I failed my maths, I was offered very little courses for Polytechnic. There were still some good ones like Architecture and Creative Writing for Television and New Media, but the chances of getting into the top Polytechnics was slim as my points were very high. Usually, the ‘better’ Polytechnics would take in students with points from 7 to 15 max. I was nowhere close to that. To make matters worse, there is a chance that I might not get posted into any Polytechnic come the day when Posting Results are released. Going to ITE was off-limits as my parents want me to pursue my education in Polytechnic.
What do I do when I don’t get posted anywhere? I have two choices: migrate back home and start college there before coming back to try and enrol for Polytechnic again or I could retake O’level Math to try and achieve a passing grade. I’m quite reluctant to do those two options for a variety of reasons.
- I don’t want to be separated from my parents and my younger brother.
- I highly doubt that I’ll pass with the upcoming O’levels.
- Living alone in a somewhat foreign country isn’t exactly a very calming thought.
So this is where I am right now. Lost and unsure of my future. I’ve always been one step ahead of myself but now I feel like I’m miles behind everyone else. I feel vulnerable and exposed to the uncertainty of where my education will continue and what I will pursue. I hate feeling like this; so afraid and fearful of what the future will bring. I’ve shed so much tears, and I will continue to shed even more. It’s only been a few days and reality has barely settled in. Maybe one day I’ll be able to look back at this point of my life and just shrug it off as another bump on the road. Albeit I’m still filled with so much negative emotions and energy, but I’m hoping for the best come February 2,2017 when Posting Results are released. Maybe Accounting wasn’t meant for me. Till then, I have to brace myself for whatever is on its way. There will definitely be days that I’ll feel empty and hopeless, but I’m fighting to counter it with anything that makes me happy.
This is not the end, not for now anyway.