Alan Soh

I am my own columnist, sharing my own thoughts and recent experiences!

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How I start to pull myself up after O-level ‘failure’

imageMonday 13 January 2014 was the day where Secondary School graduating students in Singapore, of whom has sat for GCE O-level examinations last year go back to their alma mater to collect their much-awaited results slips.

Flashing back to 1998, I was somehow in a state of depression when I obtained my results and knew that I had to go to Institute of Technical Education (ITE).  Was unhappy and feeling withdrawn and inferior for 2 years before entering National Service. And later, my hearing impairement “disaster”. That’s a double whammy. Awww.

Back then, there was quite a big social stigma about students who studied at ITE. For some Singaporeans, they may perceive ITE students as “stupid”, “useless”. Especially those who come from elite schools.

This was because the O-level results crush has shaken my self-confidence badly. And even the way I looked at myself. Despite re-taking it again. The pressure to excel at the exams came from myself, not from my parents.

My parents just told me to do my very best. Thankfully, they did not exert any pressure on me.

As told my form teacher Sumathi R Krishna, I did a lot self reflections in my head: What and where did I go wrong? Why me? And I stupid or what? Did I adopt the wrong exam preparation strategy? Blah blah blah….

To think that I want to be the MOST OUTSTANDING student in my Normal Academic class especially the boys yet my results are…dismaying. And worst still, I was the class monitor somemore. What a big joke. >_<

To pull myself out of the shell, I signed up to volunteer with the Student Volunteer at a volunteer fair held at Fountain of Wealth, Suntec City in 1999. One  Saturday. I used volunteering to “regain my self-worth bit by bit”. That was my virgin volunteer experience with Singapore Children’s Society.

And that was how I actually begun my volunteering journey.

Upon completion of National Service in 2002, I pursued my interest enrolling in Mass Communications course at MDIS (Management Development Institute of Singapore), beginning from the foundation course. I started to wear hearing aid then. Being older and wiser, I took initiative to attend classes early and adopt a different studying method, with much thanks to the guidance and care from lecturers and fellow coursemates.

It worked. My grades were satisfactory. I proceeded onto the Diploma programme smoothly. And alas, I obtained the diploma. Now today, it is a “matter of decision” whether I want to further pursue an university education.

Ms Sumathi R Krishna said this to me before: “Who says one must be a degree holder in order to be successful?”

Anyway, every little achievement gained, my self-confidence grew abit. And I felt better about myself.

Said numerous times, I am a firm believer of positive peer influence. There is no way you can’t become someone outstanding if you have had developed a personal network of outstanding individuals. I am selective in choosing friends. I seeked outstanding individuals who are willing to teach me more. Talk to them. Gain new fresh insights from their experiences shared. Talking about the desire to further develop myself into becoming someone better.

Other than those profound scentific subjects, I usually read more about current social issues as well as communications/media management issues. I want to accumulate a wealth of knowledge before I dare say I am an expert. Up till today, I consider myself still not very intellectual. lol.

I took initiative to sign up for a corporate grooming course. Learnt how to take care of my own appearance from head to toe. What looks good on me, in terms of attire and hairstyle? How to create presence or positive first impressions? How to walk, sit, talk and behave with class, like a true-blue successful personality. Like a boss. Image branding.

Why am I doing all this?

I am my own life sculptor. I want to mould myself into the ideal shape which I envision myself. In short, I am not willing to settle for mediocrity. NO.

Having said so, I am honest to say that it somehow has a haunting effect on me such that if I am to stand beside a junior college (JC) or university graduate or even an influential figure today, I might still think: I feel small because I think he or she could be looking down on me as I come from ITE. =p

I can’t help thinking that way. Inferiority complex at play again?

Life is about choices. If you are now an ITE student, the ball is in your hands, giving you full autonomy to decide whether you want to lose or win in life. Only you can help yourself. Don’t bother about what naysayers say about you.

People including your parents might look down upon you but you should always tell yourself this: “Possibilities are infinite as long as I don’t give up on myself, willing to change for the better, to become the most outstanding person I can be.”

No matter what happens, love yourself. It is about personal motivation. Prove everyone wrong.

This is a recent status update which I saw on Facebook:

“I never tell my Normal stream students that ITE is “It’s The End”. Who in this world has the right to pre-judge and limit a person’s ability except the person herself/himself? 

Most societies around the world today including Singapore are pretty much blinded by the paper chase. A person’s worth is never measured by the number of certificate papers they possess. In my opinion, employers should remember that. 

But often, we usually tend to employ people who are suitably qualified with the right training. That being said, our public service sector values academic qualifications more.

The best things I give to my Normal Stream students are self-dignity and the firm belief in their possible greatness. Every single one of us needs someone who believes in ourselves. But when nobody believes in us, we will then have to believe in ourselves and our worth all the more.”

—- By a Secondary School Teacher.

My take: Education to me, as an educator, is all about training of the human mind and spirit. It is not just about imparting knowledge. The cert paper obtained is the end result but it should not be seen as the-be-all-and-end-all. The journey experienced is far more important than the end destination.

Editor’s Note: Just to get facts straight about my above blog entry post – I did NOT fail my GCE O-Level exams back in 1997. Just in case anyone thought that I really flunk the examinations. No. 

I personally call it a ‘failure’ mainly because my target was to earn more than 3 O-level passes. Unfortunately I did not think and plan the most suitable preparation strategy for some subjects. Everything is all just pure memorisation. And hence, the devastating outcome somehow made me feel like a loser in life. Booooo. Sighhhh. Anyway, I told myself: “move on”.


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Trust your guts

One of the exhibits spotted at a Health Promotion Board (HPB) event held at a Community Club yesterday.

Sometimes, I feel we Singaporeans are too practical these days. Partly due to Asian mentality I guess, we dwell too much on the success rate of doing something, even before we start doing the plan. It could be due to fear of failure. Or we are concerned about people saying that we are CRAZY and NOT PRACTICAL, telling you to “STOP DAYDREAMING”.

It is normal but just trust your feelings, and take the guts to do it. Have faith in yourself. =)

It is okay if you fail after trying several times because at the very least you know you have tried doing it. You never know what you can or might get in the final outcome.

Remember: if you don’t ask, if you don’t try, you are NOT going to get anything.

You are young once only. Just do it. Putting aside the issue of whether the plan works out or not, very often you will definitely learn something about yourself and gain something out of it during the process of doing it.

I think most of us might have heard this saying numerous times – “The journey is more important than the final destination.” I believe we Singaporeans also need to learn “DREAM BIG”!