He watches motivational videos and makes a U-turn

Previously an "unapproachable" and "defiant" student in Secondary 2, Shahrukh Navin Sundram worked hard to improve his grades the following year and now hopes to work in the maritime industry.
Previously an "unapproachable" and "defiant" student in Secondary 2, Shahrukh Navin Sundram worked hard to improve his grades the following year and now hopes to work in the maritime industry.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

His O-level results are not what most people would describe as spectacular but Shahrukh Navin Sundram, 16, has come a long way since Secondary 1.

The former Serangoon Garden Secondary School student obtained an L1R4 score of 15 for English and four other subjects - better than his score in the prelims, which was in the mid-20s.

Said Shahrukh: "The hard work paid off. Without my teachers and parents, I could not have done it."

His O-level score is an even farther cry from his grades in lower secondary, when he failed most of his subjects.

He said: "When I was in Primary 1, I lived in Johor and had to wake up at 4am to get to school. I lost interest in school because I was usually very tired. I became very lazy."

This continued into lower secondary when Shahrukh spent most of his time playing football and computer games.

His teachers referred him for counselling in Secondary 2.

His history teacher at the time, Mr David Kwong, 37, remembers what Shahrukh was like. "He was an angsty teenager. I found him totally unapproachable, silently defiant. It manifested in the quality of his work - if he handed it in."

As luck would have it, Mr Kwong then found out he would be Shahrukh's Secondary 3 form teacher. Mr Kwong said: "To be honest, when I saw his name (on the class list), I thought, 'Oh no'."

But when term began, he was surprised to find Shahrukh a changed person.

Said Shahrukh: "In Secondary 3, there was a turning point. I saw the importance of the O levels, and started to work harder."

He started watching motivational videos on YouTube and devoted several hours to revision each day. With support from his teachers, his grades began to improve.

Shahrukh has a 19-year-old sister who is a student at the Institute of Technical Education.

Their parents divorced two years ago and both Shahrukh and his sister live with their mother.

As a third sergeant in the National Cadet Corps, Shahrukh found himself having to lead his juniors in school.

"At first, some of them did not listen to instructions," he said, admitting that the experience made it easier for him to relate to his teachers.

Mr Kwong, who said he was "not totally surprised" by his student's results, added: "I've been proud to see him transform. Shahrukh is one of the students who have been a main source of motivation for me to go to school every day. "

Shahrukh's dream is to enrol in a maritime-related course in polytechnic and eventually pursue a career in the maritime industry.

He said: "I hope that with (my improved) attitude, I can achieve greater things."

Toh Wen Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2017, with the headline 'He watches motivational videos and makes a U-turn'. Print Edition | Subscribe