Student singer overcomes grief & poverty to pass IB exams
While S'pore topped the Asia-Pacific region in the International Baccalaureate diploma exams, some students had a rough start
She was a talented singer who managed to get into her dream school, the School of the Arts (Sota), after completing her PSLE.
But Miss Handayani Indah Hassan, who was the president of the school choir when she was a pupil at Jurong Primary, was always conscious of her humble background.
After her father lost his job as a mechanic, her family moved to Johor Baru. She was then in Primary 3.
Her father became a taxi driver in Singapore and travel to and from JB daily.
They moved back to Singapore when she was in her second year at Sota. It was also during her second year that her father died of colon cancer at the age of 53.
Trying to deal with her grief, she neglected her studies and was summoned three times over the years to the vice-principal's office to discuss her poor grades.
But Miss Indah, now 18, overcame her difficulties before her final year and managed to pass her International Baccalaureate diploma examinations.
She received her results yesterday, with a score of 33 out of 45.
Miss Indah said: "I had thoughts of giving up on my studies and I felt like I was losing myself.
"I'm so grateful to my teachers for supporting me and for my friends for accepting me for who I am."
She was passionate about music and wanted to enrol in Sota when she was in primary school, but was worried that her parents would not support her choice.
"My mother was not sure about the merits of a career in the arts and was concerned about whether we could afford the school fees," said Miss Indah, who received a bursary from Sota for her education.
Her first year in Sota was challenging. She felt she could not fit in with her peers.
Miss Indah lived in JB until her second year, waking up as early as 4.30am every day to get to school.
The family now lives in a maisonette in Jurong and rents out a room for extra income.
She said: "I just felt like we were different, financially... the way I spoke, the way I walked was different."
The death of her father was also a heavy blow to Miss Indah, who is the youngest of five children. Her dad shared her love of music and they enjoyed watching singing competitions together, she recalled fondly.
He was the sole breadwinner.
After his death, her mum had to work long hours as a taxi driver to support the family.
Miss Indah said softly: "My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was in primary school and he recovered.
"He worked every day as a taxi driver because our family was his priority. He missed several check-ups and when he had a relapse, it was too late.
"My mum worked the night shift and I was worried about her as she was also dealing with his death. I felt like I needed someone to talk to, but there was no one so I bottled my feelings inside."
BROKE DOWN & CRIED
Her grief did not go unnoticed by her voice teacher at Sota, Mr William Lim, 55, who said: "She was struggling with her school work and there were occasions when she would break down and cry.
"It took her more than a year to get over it and I think it helps that she was busy with the demands of school.
"I'm very proud of her achievements, especially in the past two years, when she really showed her colours, " said Mr Lim, who added that Miss Indah initially lacked confidence.
Miss Indah hopes to continue her studies at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music or Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
Miss Indah's mother, Madam Suriati Ahmad, 56, said: "When I first heard about Indah's potential in music when she was in primary school, I wondered what she could do with it in future.
"But over the years, Indah has shared different career options such as music therapy and composing, which I found very interesting.
"Music is a part of her and when I hear her sing, it really feels good."
Poor PSLE results changed her
When she received her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results six years ago, she was disheartened.
HAPPY: SJI International student Melyssa Lim scored 40 points out of 45 in her IB Diploma Programme. TNP PHOTO: EDWIN FONG
Her score was 188 out of 300.
It was seen as a let-down because she was in Singapore Chinese Girls' School (Primary).
She knew that an A for Chinese, Bs for science and English, and a D for mathematics were not good enough to secure a place in SCGS for her secondary education.
So instead, she chose to study an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma at St. Joseph's Institution International School (SJI International).
Miss Melyssa Lim, 18, said: "I wasn't crushed by my results, but I regretted not studying hard enough because I was playful back then. PSLE was a turning point for me, and I personally felt the need to wake up."
She saw her friends who got better scores for PSLE crying tears of joy. It made her more upset.
Miss Lim eventually did wake up and scored 40 points out of the maximum score of 45 when she received her IB results yesterday.
"I am happy with the results because I would be able to study what I want in university, which is interior and spatial design in the UK.
"And I know that I've come a long way from PSLE."
Miss Lim adopted a different attitude towards her studies and put in a lot more effort than she did in primary school.
As mathematics was her weakest subject, she set aside two hours every weekend to practise sums.
She attended tuition classes twice a week, formed study groups and met with her classmates after school hours to clear her doubts.
She managed to get a perfect score of seven for her Math Studies subject.
Ms Cheryl Wee, 37, Miss Lim's private tutor since her primary school days, said: "When I took Melyssa on in her early years, her confidence took a severe beating with her PSLE score.
"But I believed she would turn around and now, she has grown into a confident, beautiful and dedicated problem-solver."
Ms Wee said: "Nothing is impossible if you will yourself to try and keep trying. Never give up."
Miss Lim's mother, Dr Ann Tan, a gynaecologist in her 50s, said: "She was insecure about her abilities before, and she had tuition to assist her to get through the difficult years in primary school.
"Once in SJI International, she matured, and she put in a lot of effort to do well. I am very grateful that she has turned out so well."
Said Miss Lim: "I won't sugarcoat it for those who don't do well for PSLE. Take a while to absorb that you've received this score, but also think about what you can do better next.
"It's important to remember that only you can help yourself."
I won't sugarcoat it for those who don't do well for PSLE. Take a while to absorb that you've received this score, but also think about what you can do better next.
- Miss Melyssa Lim
S'pore's performance in the International Baccalaureate programme
Number of students who took the exam
Number of students who got a perfect score of 45
What is IB?
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is more broad-based than the A levels, requiring students to take six subjects and Theory of Knowledge, a course combining philosophy, religion and logical reasoning. Students also take a second language, do research, write a 4,000-word essay and participate in a community service project.