School with a different culture

Alumni from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore's pioneer batch (from left): NUS law student Ms Khit Sue Lun , Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate Mr Jurvis Tan, and NUS medical student Ms Grace Tan.
Alumni from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore's pioneer batch (from left): NUS law student Ms Khit Sue Lun , Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate Mr Jurvis Tan, and NUS medical student Ms Grace Tan. PHOTO: ST FILE

Back when he was a primary school pupil at De La Salle School, Mr Jurvis Tan used to spend much of his free time after class in front of the computer, tinkering with code to come up with Web designs for blogs, or finding ways to migrate to a private server when he started getting abusive messages from other users on the online role-playing game MapleStory.

"At that point, I didn't know what I was doing was programming, I just wanted to change the colour (of the page's background)," recalled the 20-year-old.

When his father heard about the new School of Science and Technology, Singapore (SST) in 2009, which focuses on hands-on learning and nurturing innovation and creativity, he thought that it would be a good fit for Mr Tan.

"He always thought I was the kind of person who would flourish in an environment where things are more in a flux, and where I would get the opportunity to do my own thing, stray off the path a little bit," Mr Tan said of his father.

Mr Tan added that what he encountered at SST "exceeded his expectations".

History lessons involved trips to the museum as well as hands-on research assignments that "never felt like you had to take a test for it".

Teachers prompted students to draw links between apparently disparate topics like the ancient Maya civilisation and World War II, allowing them to develop their own critical framework for thinking and learning about the world around them.

Now waiting to enlist in national service, Mr Tan, who completed his diploma course in infocomm technology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic earlier this year, hopes to be able to use technology to solve other problems in the future.

He is currently working on a project that can improve the accessibility of electronic medical records.

SST alumna Grace Tan, 20, a second-year medical student at the National University of Singapore, said she appreciated how SST has established a culture in school where students are treated like young adults.

"We were treated with a lot of respect. For example, it's the culture to call the students ladies and gentlemen. It built up our confidence and gave us a platform to explore our own abilities."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'School with a different culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe