Teacher’s Day Special: Going beyond the call

Teacher’s Day Special: Hardship experience helps him help others

Mr Ravindran and three of his former pupils (from left): Theijes Menon, 13; Lee Chin Jing, 19; and Muhammad Firdaus, 14.
Mr Ravindran and three of his former pupils (from left): Theijes Menon, 13; Lee Chin Jing, 19; and Muhammad Firdaus, 14.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

After failing his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at the age of 14, Mr Ravindran Kanna was struck by how sad it made his father.

With a newfound resolve, he went on to juggle full-time work and part-time studies in polytechnic and university for the next 16 years.

He initially studied engineering, but switched paths after he realised the importance of education, and became a teacher in 2002.

It was his experience with hardship that made him more able to empathise with the struggles his pupils face.

"It's very important as a teacher to connect with your students so that you can understand where they come from and what the issue is," said Mr Ravindran, who teaches English, mathematics and science at Bukit Panjang Primary School.

The 46-year-old is also the school's head of department for citizenship and character education, and has published a motivational self-help book about his journey titled The Other Singapore Story.

An ex-pupil of his, Ms Lee Chin Jing, now 19, was in tears when she received what she felt were unsatisfactory PSLE results seven years ago.

"My results weren't good enough for me to go to the school I wanted, but Mr Ravi told me that it wasn't the end, and that I could continue on to secondary school and treasure the chance I had to continue studying," said Ms Lee, who is now pursuing her studies at Millennia Institute.

At the time, she approached Mr Ravindran because he was a teacher with whom she was familiar.

She also believes he was an appropriate person to give advice on the issue because of his past experiences. "Those who have been through it will understand more," she said.

Muhammad Firdaus, now a Secondary 2 student at Unity Secondary School, used to do his homework late into the night and call Mr Ravindran if he had any questions.

Said the 14-year-old: "If he didn't answer his phone, he would get back to me as soon as possible even though it wasn't during school hours."

Mr Ravindran feels that students should be able to choose their own education paths.

"I feel that some parents dictate educational aspirations for their children without involving them in the decision-making process," said the father of two sons.

"Students must be given the opportunity to choose what they want to do."

Rachel Oh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Hardship experience helps him help others'. Print Edition | Subscribe