Inquisitive spirit

Relishing new chapter as a senior student

Mr Paul Ng decided to pursue a specialist diploma in business and big data analytics at Nanyang Polytechnic when he reached retirement age.
Mr Paul Ng decided to pursue a specialist diploma in business and big data analytics at Nanyang Polytechnic when he reached retirement age.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mr Paul Ng could not help but feel apprehensive when he stepped into the classroom for his first lesson in business and big data analytics.

"I felt so out of place. I looked around me, the class age range - so young. And there I was, so senior," the 62-year-old recalled.

Mr Ng had attended more than 50 short-term courses on technical and interpersonal skills during the over three decades he had worked in the IT industry.

But stepping into the formal classroom environment for the first time in almost 40 years was a different ball game altogether.

Despite the fact that he would be one of the oldest students even in the adult learning class, Mr Ng decided to stick with his decision of pursuing a specialist diploma in business and big data analytics at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) when he reached retirement age and left his job as an IT consultant.

His wife, a human resource practitioner, supported his choice.

Since Octoberlast year, he has been attending three-hour classes that are held three days a week, and spends a few hours on assignments and revision every day.

I'm fortunate to have helpful classmates. I also like to ask questions, and would challenge assumptions that are not clear until it becomes clear to me.

MR PAUL NG, 62, who stepped into the formal classroom environment for the first time in almost 40 years.

"I like statistics and probabilities - like determining the probability of being able to strike lottery, for example," he quipped.

Though he had attained a degree in mathematics and statistics from Australia's University of Wollongong in 1985, he did not have a chance to put his technical know- ledge to substantial use when he was in the IT industry.

"When I was busy with my career, I didn't have a chance to explore this area fully. I wanted to take this opportunity to appreciate statistics more."

Mr Kenny Lu, a senior lecturer at NYP's School of Information Technology, said Mr Ng was representative of most of the continuing-education students in his class.

"They have wonderful ideas, are very motivated, and always want to find out what you're trying to say - they don't settle for merely scratching the surface."

In April, Mr Ng even approached NYP's career services office in the hope of getting some real-world experience in his area of study.

He was accepted into a six-month work attachment programme with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline which started in May, but had to put that on hold because he found he was lagging behind in his coursework.

With about two months more to go before he gets his diploma, Mr Ng no longer feels out of place in the classroom.

He hopes to get a job in data analytics, if the opportunity to do so comes by.

"I'm fortunate to have helpful classmates. I also like to ask questions, and would challenge assumptions that are not clear until it becomes clear to me," said Mr Ng, who has also learnt how to edit videos and cook some of his favourite dishes through YouTube video tutorials.

"I'll rather be a fool for a day and risk asking a silly question, rather than being a fool forever if I don't ask any at all."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Relishing new chapter as a senior student'. Print Edition | Subscribe