For most of his primary and secondary school years, Deevinesh Jude Vincent skipped classes and got into fights.
But last year, he received a sharp wake-up call. His then 27-year-old brother, who has a degree in psychology, struggled for many months to get a job.
"If with a degree, it was so difficult to find work, I realised it would be even worse for me if I did not have a proper education," the 16-year-old from Spectra Secondary told The Straits Times.
His new-found diligence in going through his lessons daily and doing the questions of past years' examination papers paid off when he received his N-level results yesterday afternoon.
He was among the top 40 students in Spectra to be specially commended by principal Krishnan Aravinthan. He also scored an A in his favourite subject: mathematics.
Almost 15,000 students received their N-level results yesterday, with 4,973 from the Normal (Technical) and 9,983 from the Normal (Academic).
Deevinesh is among the 96.6 per cent in Normal (Technical) who passed, having scored at least Grade D or better in at least one subject.
In Normal (Academic), 99.4 per cent passed.
A record 76.6 per cent of all Normal (Academic) students are eligible for promotion to Sec 5 next year, an improvement over last year's 75.2 per cent.
This year's passing rates, however, are a tad below last year's 99.6 per cent for Normal (Academic) and 97.1 per cent for Normal (Technical) students.
More N-level students can take up subjects at higher level
At Spectra, the pass rate is 98.5 per cent, a "gratifying" outcome, said Mr Krishnan. The students are the first group to take the N-level exam.
About 40 per cent of this group - or 80 students - had applied for early admission to the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE).
All were successful, which means they can pursue the Nitec courses of their choice.
Spectra and Crest Secondary are specialised schools that allow Normal (Technical) students to do N-level subjects plus a certified vocational skill course.
They can do only one of four options: facility services such as plumbing work and wiring lights, mechanical servicing like maintaining industrial piping and valves, retail services or hospitality services.
On completing the course successfully, they will get an ITE Skills Certification.
This is also the first year of results from N-level students under the Subject-Based Banding (Secondary) scheme who took one or more subjects at a higher academic level.
The scheme allows both Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) students who scored an A or A* grade in a subject at PSLE level to take it at Express level from Sec 1.
Before the scheme, they can do so only from Sec 3.
The subjects under the scheme are English, mother tongue, mathematics and science.
The results of students in Normal (Technical) were comparable to their peers in Normal (Academic) under the scheme, said the Education Ministry.
The scheme, introduced in 2014 in 12 secondary schools to cater to students' strengths in different subjects, will be extended next year to all secondary schools with N-level classes.
The new year will see Deevinesh going to ITE College Central, where he will pursue a course in aerospace technology.
His ambition is to work in the aerospace industry.
"I want to work on planes. It is a good job and I can have a career that will pay well."
The teenager whose father is a Grab driver and mother a security officer, added: "I want to be able to support my parents in the future."