53-year-old graduates from Temasek Poly as valedictorian

Technician Kamaruddin Salleh, who decided to enrol in a part-time aerospace engineering course in Temasek Polytechnic three years ago, said he had to work doubly hard as the oldest student in class.
Technician Kamaruddin Salleh had decided to enrol in a part-time aerospace engineering course in Temasek Polytechnic three years ago.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Technician Kamaruddin Salleh, 53, was attending his eldest son's polytechnic graduation ceremony three years ago when he got the idea of going back to school.

The same year, he decided to enrol in a part-time aerospace engineering course in Temasek Polytechnic.

Mr Kamaruddin, who stopped his studies after secondary school, was partly inspired by his 49-year-old wife.

She went back to school a few years earlier when she was in her 40s, and signed up for a part-time bachelor's degree in early childhood education at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Mr Kamaruddin, who works as a technician at SIA Engineering, said: "At first, I was intimidated by the idea of going back to school. I had not touched school books for more than 30 years.

"With the support of my family, I mustered the courage and gave it a shot."

The 21/2-year course was tough and he said he broke down several times, but it was all worth it when he graduated as valedictorian two weeks ago.

He said: "Being the oldest student in the class, I was worried I couldn't keep up with the other students, especially with modules like computer programming. I told myself I had to work doubly hard."

He often woke up a few hours earlier and squeezed in some studying before going to work. To keep going, he reminded himself that his wife and two sons, aged 23 and 21, believed in him and would be proud of his success.

He said: "Age is just a number. You have to believe in yourself and just go for it."