Teenager Ng Hui has received mathematics and English lessons from the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) since she was in Primary 1.
The help has been a boost for the 17-year-old, whose father is a taxi driver and mother works as a sales assistant in a bakery.
Her family paid about $16 per month for her lessons in both subjects when she was in primary school, and $24 monthly when she was in secondary school.
The former Riverside Secondary School student, who has two older brothers, scored seven distinctions for her O levels last year and is now studying accountancy at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
She was one of 14 winners of the Best Overall Academic Performance Award at a ceremony held yesterday by four self-help groups to reward students who did well in national examinations.
SMALLER TUITION CLASSES A BOON
Since the classes are smaller, I also got to interact better with teachers. I hope to go to university next time and be an accountant after that.
I have liked maths and numbers since young. When you solve a question, you feel like you've achieved something.
NGEE ANN POLYTECHNIC STUDENT NG HUI, on how the extra lessons from CDAC helped reinforce what she learnt in school.
A total of 564 students - who are beneficiaries of CDAC, Eurasian Association, Sinda and Yayasan Mendaki - each received $100 to $150 worth of Popular bookstore vouchers.
The annual prizes were given out for the 13th time.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who was the guest of honour at yesterday's event at Nanyang Polytechnic, said the tuition programmes run by the self-help groups reflect a common belief - "that education is the springboard by which our communities can progress towards a better future".
New Town Secondary School student Kerthana Shree Shanmugavelu, who received vouchers along with the Best Overall Academic Performance Award, said the tuition from Sinda in her primary and secondary school years helped her to do better.
"I used to fail maths all the way and get borderline passes for science, but the coaching from Sinda and my teacher in school helped," said the 16-year-old who scored five distinctions in the N levels last year.
The Secondary 5 student, whose father is a container driver and mother is a technician, wants to buy storybooks and assessment books to prepare for the O levels this year. She hopes to get into Singapore Polytechnic's perfumery and cosmetic science course.
Ng Hui said the extra lessons from CDAC helped as they reinforced what she learnt in school.
"Since the classes are smaller, I also get to interact better with teachers," she said. "I hope to go to university next time and be an accountant after that.
"I have liked maths and numbers since young. When you solve a question, you feel like you've achieved something."
In his speech, Mr Masagos said that each self-help group has its customised programmes, but also come together to tap each other's strengths and resources to widen their outreach.
For instance, the self-help groups' Collaborative Tuition Programme was started in 2002 to allow students to attend tuition offered by other self-help groups, optimising the use of community resources and providing more convenience to students from less well-to-do families.
To date there are 75 such centres islandwide, up from 11 when the programme first started.
Mr Masagos said that this collaborative scheme is "an additional common space and opportunity for students to interact with and understand one another".