The 88 pioneering students from NUSHS.
"My friends and I used to joke in school that if there ever was a mathematics and science school in Singapore, we'd gladly enrol in it," grins 17-year-old Gregory Lau. On 1 December 2008, Gregory and his peers became the first students to graduate from such an institution - the National University of Singapore High School (NUSHS).
The inaugural convocation saw 88 students of the pioneering batch graduate receive their diplomas from Minister of Education Dr Ng Eng Hen. Recognised by all tertiary institutions in Singapore and even foreign universities like Harvard, the diploma recognises their completion of a six-year integrated course specialising in mathematics and science. As Dr Ng remarks during his congratulatory address, "You were all pathfinders, seeking paths that other students and schools haven't gone through."
Minister for Education Dr Ng Eng Hen congratulates the graduating students.
Excelling in an "untested" school
As each student filed onstage to receive the diploma, his or her individual achievements were read out: awards and medals in international physics, mathematics, chemistry Olympiads and various prestigious scholarships. Top graduate Zhao Ye's achievements included the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Mathematics and Science and top place in the Intel international Science and Engineering Fair.
Her curiosity about physics started at a young age. She admits that when she was a child, she secretly rifled through her parents' belongings for items to build her own 'scientific' devices. Although her parents were concerned with her choice to pursue studies in an "untested" school, Zhao Ye went ahead anyway, believing that it would help achieve her dream of becoming a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I was really interested in coming to NUSHS because we would get to apply what we learnt from classroom lessons in real life."
Years of hard work pays off for top NUSHS student Zhao Ye.
She recalls, "It was very challenging compared to my old school, especially in my first semester. And because we were the first batch of students, we had to start everything from scratch. Now when I look back, there were a lot of uncertainties. Graduation itself is like sunlight!" she adds with a smile.
Parental support key To success
Studying at NUSHS was no simple matter. Time management skills, for instance, were critical. The average weekly workload, Zhao Ye estimates, is probably several hours more than their peers in mainstream schools, and that's excluding CCAs.
Her father Mr Zhao Jing Yi agrees. "While this school really gives a lot of opportunities to students talented in mathematics and science, parents need to consider if their child is suitable for this school," he advises.
Mom's support means a lot to Gregory Lau.
Gregory's mother Mrs Lau Fatt Yang is of a similar opinion. "I think you should know your child. A lot of independent learning is required, and they also go into great depth
for each subject." Having said that, "If a child can confidently tell you what he or she wants to do, as parents we should give him our full support."
For Gregory, having such a supportive parent has been very encouraging. "I'm more of a risk-taker," he admits. "I'm interested in fundamental physics and I hope to go to MIT to further my studies. I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to be part of the pioneering batch at NUSHS."