O-Level results: ‘Angsty’ teen qualifies for poly as teacher helped him turn his life around

O-Level results: ‘Angsty’ teen qualifies for poly as teacher helped him turn his life around
Mr David Kwong (left) first met Shahrukh Navin Sundram when he taught him history in Secondary 2 and found him unapproachable at first, but now, other teachers ‘marvel’ at Shahrukh’s transformation. PHOTO: Jason Quah
Educator pushed O-Level pupil in his studies, despite the latter’s behavioural issues
Published: 4:00 AM, January 12, 2017
Updated: 12:33 PM, January 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — By his own admission, he was unmotivated, lazy, and thought a bit too highly of himself when it came to his studies. It took a determined form teacher and a family crisis before things started to turn around for Shahrukh Navin Sundram.

Yesterday, along with other O-Level students who returned to their secondary schools in the afternoon to get their results, Shahrukh collected his at Serangoon Garden Secondary School.

Last year’s cohort topped the performance of that from the previous year, with more than eight in 10 students getting five or more subject passes for the national GCE O-Level examinations.

Shahrukh did well to qualify to enter a polytechnic, where he intends to pursue maritime studies.

Looking back on his earlier days as a schoolboy, he confessed that he was not a model student.

He would find himself sleepy and lethargic in class because he had to wake up early and commute from his home in Johor Baru, Malaysia to Zhonghua Primary School in Singapore on a daily basis from the time when he was in Primary 1.

After a while, laziness started to set in, he said.

He did not submit his homework promptly and even skipped revision classes leading up to the Primary School Leaving Examination.

“I thought I could do well even by not attending those lessons,” he admitted.

This attitude, he said, continued even after his family relocated back to Singapore in 2010 and he entered secondary school.

Mr David Kwong, 37, first met Shahrukh when he taught him history in Secondary 2, and found him unapproachable and angsty at first.

“He had this me-against-the-world attitude and was silently defiant. When I asked him to do work, he would stare back at me,” he recalled with a chuckle.

Knowing that Shahrukh was undergoing counselling for behavioural issues, Mr Kwong decided to take a softer approach.

For instance, knowing that the boy might not complete his homework, he would ask him to finish the assignment in class.

Mr Kwong became Shahrukh’s form teacher in Secondary 3 and guided him closely in his studies. He also tried to motivate the boy by sending him messages of encouragement, reminding him to work hard.

On his part, Shahrukh was able to set aside time for homework and revision.

He said that his parents’ divorce in 2012 also motivated him to study hard so that he could get a good job to support his 57-year-old mother, who now works in a laundry firm and to avoid being a “burden” himself.

Mr Kwong added that other teachers “marvelled” at Shahrukh’s transformation, but the teen stressed that he would not have gotten good results without the teachers.

“They are the ones who guide us in our learning. Without their encouragement, we would not achieve greater things,” he said.