4As Sad, 2As Happy

March 6, 2007 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

The Electric New Paper :


Embarrassing to get ‘just’ 4As

By Veena Bharwani

06 March 2007

HER dark face matched the stormy weather on Friday. She was one of more than 1,200 students who were collecting their A-level results at Raffles Junior College (RJC) that day.And one would have thought she had failed the national examination. Far from it actually. The frowning student, who declined to give her name, had a clean sweep of As: 4As, A1 for her general paper (GP), two distinctions and one merit for her special (S) papers. Yet, her results, which would possibly make students from some other junior colleges scream with joy, left her sulking. Why?

‘I wasn’t up on stage. I should have been up there, if not for the merit I scored in my S paper,’ she said.

She was referring to the 13 top students from the college who made the news over the weekend for a perfect score of 4As, an A1 for GP and three distinctions for their S papers. She needed one more distinction in her S papers – instead of a merit – to be a ‘perfect scorer’. So why was she making such a big deal of such a tiny ‘blemish’ on her results slip?

‘It’s hard here (at RJC), you know. There is so much pressure to get these perfect grades. Yes, I admit I am a bit upset because of this,’ she said. She was not alone. There were a number of students in the hall who reacted to similar ‘blemishes’ on their results slip. One student, who scored 4As and an A2 for GP, but had an ‘ungraded’ for one of two S papers, hung his head in shame when he received his results.

The New Paper initially thought he had failed badly when we approached. But he said: ‘It’s embarrassing when you have one black mark and every one else around you has perfect scores.’ Another unhappy student was a girl who scored 3As and a C for physics. She was crying and her friends had to console her. It perhaps ended her aspirations of getting a scholarship. She was so upset that she declined to speak to The New Paper.


There was another kind of strange reaction among the RJC students – nonchalance. At least 15 students The New Paper spoke to bore no expression of happiness or sadness; they just looked bored. They too, had almost ‘perfect’ scores – 4As, A1 for GP and even a distinction or two for their S papers. Yet, it all seemed so meaningless. There was a group who scored 4As, but took out a pack of cards and started playing. They looked neither overjoyed nor relieved. Just blase.

Student Ouyang Hong Yue, 18, summed it up. He said: ‘More than 50 per cent of students here obtained 4As today, so our grades have become average. It is no big deal.’ He is right, as 676 of the 1,239 RJC students (55 per cent) collecting their results, scored 4As and above. He added philosophically: ‘Being in this JC has warped our expectations of what is average.

‘It’s no big deal to get 4As in this school, because half of us have obtained this score. It’s only when you are severely below average that you will stand out.’ But he added that he has managed to see the brighter side of things because he has friends from other JCs. ‘I know they will get average scores, and as long as those scores get them into the university, that’s enough for them. ‘It’s because of them that I’m able to distance myself from this mindset.’

So what do parents and teachers feel about this trend? Mrs Kamala M, who has two teenage sons, said: ‘This is why students try and get into these top schools, as they know they are likely to produce these results. It’s like a factory. ‘I feel sad for them. If you feel blase about such grades, then what is there to look forward to? ‘Perhaps they should look into placing these super smart kids on a fast track to university and let them skip the A levels as they may no longer find it a challenge.’

A teacher in another JC who declined to be named, said: ‘These students are over-achievers, they have been schooled for two years to expect 4As and nothing less. ‘I think it is a problem, but to these students, not having the perfect scores means the end of obtaining prestigious scholarships.’ She added that she doesn’t see this mindset changing anytime soon.’ Only if the entire system changes, then perhaps their attitudes will change,’ she said.


A levels meaningless for top: Time for total review?

By Santokh Singh

06 March 2007

IT IS indeed sad when a student thinks she has let herself down by not recording the perfect score. Some students scoring the near impossible straight 4As and an A1 for GP when the A level results were released last Friday saw no reason to celebrate. Are RJC student Ouyang Hong Yue’s views reflective of what’s happening in our top junior colleges?

He told my colleague Veena Bharwani: ‘More than 50 per cent of students here obtained 4As today, so our grades have become average. It is no big deal.’

And after some thought, he added rather philosophically: ‘Being in this JC has warped our expectations of what is average.’It’s no big deal to get 4As in this school, because half of us have obtained this score. It’s only when you are severely below average that you will stand out.’

While the best and brightest have been coached to score almost perfectly, what can we say about their score for maturity? Has the success-driven regime taken the joy of success out of them?

A friend, coming from a generation where only a couple of students nationwide recorded 4As plus an A1 in GP, called me over the weekend. He said: ‘Has it all become so meaningless? Have the A levels become so easy, or are our top students really that bright? ‘Maybe the time has come for us to move away from the A levels.’

When told that there was much to celebrate at Serangoon JC, he paused and remarked: ‘Maybe we should close down the top JCs and get these bright sparks to go directly to the university.’

After all, there are already schools like the PSB Academy taking in O-level students for university degree courses.

And in Temasek JC’s B Sundarabalan, we already have a student who completed his degree in accountancy (1st Class Honours) while he was in JC, and also managed to gain his professional certification from UK’s Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. He was the youngest to do it in Singapore last year. He took a rather twisted route and completed his A levels with straight As on Friday. At age 19, the Temasek JC cricket captain is already receiving unofficial offers for a master’s degree from UK business schools.

Two years ago, I suggested converting the lower strata of our JCs into polytechnics. A substantial number of their students do not qualify for universities and the A-level certificate alone carries little value these days. Now there is a hint that our top JCs can bypass the A levels. The question is: Has the time come to rethink the A levels completely? Is it time to remove them?

Maybe, the results of this year’s cohort (2007 batch) – which will see the first through-train group taking the examination without the experience of the O levels – will provide some answers. It will also be the first time that a cohort will have the International Baccalaureate – Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) is offering it – to compare with. Perhaps then, we’ll have some clearer answers on the future of JCs.

Over the moon with 2As

06 March 2007

AT Serangoon Junior College (SRJC), Alex Jafarzadeh presented a contrast to his unhappy Raffles Junior College counterparts. You would have thought he had scored straight distinctions. After looking at his result slip, the 18-year-old said: ‘I’m so over the moon!’ His results: A for English Literature, Bs for Economics and History, and A2 for General Paper. Unlike the top students in most JCs, Alex did not even qualify for a special paper. Yet, gripping his results slip, he said: ‘I’m so happy. This is so amazing. I was expecting Cs and Ds.’

Alex had never received better then a C grade for his tests during his two years at SRJC. He had worked hard, but could never achieve the grades he wanted. On Friday, what had seemed impossible, happened. For his teachers, it was unexpected too. ‘He has the potential to score As, but he just couldn’t perform at the tests in school. I’m truly happy for him,’ said Mr Mark Tan, 29, his English Literature teacher. ‘Achieving double distinctions or 3Bs would have been a happy result for most of my students,’ he added. No wonder Alex was on cloud nine.When interviewed on the phone, his parents were both just as ecstatic.

‘I’m also over the moon. I was expecting 3 Cs,’ Mrs Sally Jafarzadeh, 45, said. Added Mr Nasser Jafarzadeh, 52, a managing director: ‘With all the pressure of the Singapore (education) system, I’m so happy he did so well.’ Indeed, celebrations for little things were the order of the day at Serangoon JC.

There were many cases like Alex’s, of students jumping for joy after achieving grades that would have earned a rather depressed response at top-end JCs. The pass rates, when announced, were drowned by deafening cheers. The JC’s top performers were five students with 4As and 22 students with 3As. This pales when compared with the results that top-end JCs boast.

But in Serangoon JC, it was news that brought smiles to the faces of teachers and students alike. – Andrew Chin


Entry filed under: education, elite, RJC, Singapore.

Betrayal Pantheon of Titans

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