Beyond N levels: Smooth transition when he took the direct-entry route

Student Lek Tai Yong did his research after sitting the N levels and decided he wanted a diploma in social enterprise management from Republic Polytechnic. He qualified for the course through the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.
Student Lek Tai Yong did his research after sitting the N levels and decided he wanted a diploma in social enterprise management from Republic Polytechnic. He qualified for the course through the Polytechnic Foundation Programme. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

When he was in Secondary 3, Mr Lek Tai Yong picked up the personal finance best-seller Rich Dad, Poor Dad and decided that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

"It opened my eyes to the world of business, and I wanted to innovate and come up with something interesting," recalled Mr Lek, now 19.

The former Pasir Ris Crest Secondary School student, whose father used to own a business in the mariculture industry, set his sights on joining the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP). He qualified with a score of 11 points when he took his N levels in 2013.

Mr Lek did his research and found out that Republic Polytechnic offered a business course with a twist - a diploma in social enterprise management.

He applied for the course through the one-year PFP, which subsequently allowed him to skip the O levels and enter the diploma programme directly.

"I believe the future of business is not just in doing well, but doing good," said Mr Lek, who is now in his second year.

He is working with friends to launch a personal and career development platform for youth.

While he reckons that he would not have had the chance to learn about entrepreneurship if he had moved on to Sec 5, he said that the polytechnic also gave him many opportunities to explore his interests.

On top of joining a youth entrepreneurship and co-operative interest group when he was in the PFP, he learnt how to set up a website using programming languages and picked up skills like project management and marketing.

He also appreciated being able to experience life on a polytechnic campus.

"The transition to polytechnic is smoother and I got to interact with older students who give you a different perspective of life," he said.

While student life in the PFP can be busy at times, Mr Lek said that the environment at school is not a competitive one.

"Because of the culture in PFP, everyone wants to do well and succeed. But it's not a zero-sum game, and people will be happy for you if you achieve something."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Smooth transition when he took the direct-entry route'. Print Edition | Subscribe