From an F to A* in English, Julia Wong had plenty to celebrate yesterday when she collected her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.
The Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School pupil also received an A* for mathematics, and two As for her science and Chinese subjects.
"I didn't want to disappoint them," the 12-year-old said of her teachers who helped her through her problems with English, which she struggled with in the first semester of Primary 1. But some six months in a learning support programme - where she learnt how to identify sounds, as well as pronounce and spell words - helped her catch up with her peers.
She was among the thousands of Primary 6 pupils across Singapore who collected their result slips yesterday. A total of 38,808 pupils sat the PSLE this year, down from 39,286 last year. The cohort had 98.4 per cent doing well enough to progress to secondary school - a new record since the national exam was introduced in 1960 - edging out last year's 98.3 per cent.
From 1980 to 2014, the percentage of pupils eligible to enrol in secondary schools ranged between 81.7 per cent and 97.8 per cent.
TEACHERS ENCOURAGED HER
Before the programme, I couldn't read or write English. I thought that something was wrong with me. But my teachers encouraged me, and they were very patient.
JULIA WONG, 12, about the learning support programme.
Education experts are not surprised by the steady climb.
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said: "A contributing factor to this upward trend is the continuous efforts of our schools in preparing our pupils both academically and psychologically for the exam."
National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said that while further improvements may be possible, "any increase would likely be marginal".
"The percentage of students eligible to enrol in a secondary school is already extremely high," he said. "Therefore, further increases will be harder to achieve."
Of this year's cohort, 66.4 per cent qualified for the Express stream. But this was lower than the record 66.7 per cent achieved by the class of 2013.
This is the fifth year that the Education Ministry is not revealing the top PSLE scorer in a bid to reduce emphasis on academic results. It also did not reveal the highest and lowest scores achieved by pupils in the cohort, a move started in 2013.
Julia, who was a prefect and a member of the school choir, wants to become a teacher to help other pupils in future, just like how her teachers helped her.
"Before the programme, I couldn't read or write English. I thought that something was wrong with me," said Julia, who would find time for practice even after school. "But my teachers encouraged me, and they were very patient."