Ms Ashley Song is a fine example of how knowing and pursuing one’s passion is key to success.
The 19-year-old was named valedictorian among the 2019 graduating class of Republic Polytechnic (RP). She graduated earlier this year with a Diploma in Arts and Theatre Management and was awarded a Lee Foundation Scholarship for her outstanding academic and co-curricular activities performance.
Ashley has known from a young age where her heart lies: The performing arts. She enjoys movies, musicals and theatre performances.
When she was in Secondary Two, she fell in love with theatre after watching the 25th Anniversary special of the musical The Phantom of the Opera. Her interest in the art form grew since then.
But if not for the unwavering support and encouragement of her parents, her love of the theatre would have been unrequited.
Her mother, Mrs Song, who works in the corporate communications sector suggested three years ago that she apply through the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) offered by all five polytechnics.
The aptitude-based admissions exercise allows students to apply for and receive conditional offers for admission to polytechnics prior to receiving their final grades. The school determines the applicant’s suitability based on interest, portfolio and performance during the interview.
The mother and daughter did their research together on the various courses and modules offered under EAE by the different polytechnics. Putting her portfolio together, she wrote critiques of shows she had seen, an essay on her interest and collated her collection of ticket stubs from shows she attended.
Ashley eventually decided to pursue the Arts and Theatre Management diploma offered by Republic Polytechnic as she felt the curriculum would suit her most.
She grew up in the heart of Woodlands with her 51-year-old father, Mr Song, a pastor, her mother and her 12-year-old brother, Brandon.
Looking back at her decision, Ashley said: “Your three years in school will be more fulfilling if you do something you have genuine interest in. Not only will it be more enjoyable, but there is a higher possibility for you to do really well.”
Her parents supported her fully, assuring her that even if she were to change her mind down the road, they would stand by her. People grow from experience and they sometimes develop new areas of interest along the way, they told her. They also stressed to her the importance of being open to try new things.
Ashley commended RP for its strong collaboration with the arts industry, which gave her plenty of opportunities to learn and gain working experience.
From participating in a students’ overseas education trip in Perth to her five-month internship with Singapore Repertory Theatre, such exposure provided eye-opening experiences that deepened her love for the arts and theatre.
On preparing for the EAE, she advises students to be objective, stay calm and enjoy the process.
“Show that you have sustained your interest over a period of time. Talk about how you became interested, what you have done and what you hope to do after completing the course. At the end of the day, the interviewers are looking for people with genuine interest and aptitude for the course they are applying for,” she said.
Currently, she is seeking opportunities to gain working experience before furthering her studies.
Help your child secure his future
The EAE is part of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) on-going efforts to expand aptitude-based admissions.
Under the EAE, polytechnics have greater flexibility to admit students through course-specific talents instead of looking solely at their academic qualifications.
“It is important for students to showcase their zest in the course that they apply for, so that the selection panel can accurately gauge the students’ interest during the EAE interview,” said RP’s registrar, Mr Windersalam Shanmugasundar.
Since the exercise started in 2016, the EAE annual intake across five polytechnics has increased from the initial guideline of 2.5 per cent to nearly 20 per cent this year.
At 16 or 17 years old, most youth may not have found their career compass yet. This is where parents can play an active and supportive role to help their child discover their passion and realise their potential.
Mr Boo Chong-Han, deputy principal of RP’s Student Services and Organisational Development said: “The EAE is an excellent opportunity for your children to pursue a course of study that is aligned with their interests. At RP, we will help them develop their interests and talents so that they become professionals equipped with the necessary technical and soft skills to achieve successful careers.”
Next month, join Republic Polytechnic for a two-hour Parents’ Talk seminar that will address how you can help your child pursue their dreams and ace the EAE application process. Get insights from teachers, students, alumni and fellow parents on being part of the RP family. After the talk, you can speak to one of the course counsellors to learn more about the courses available and what is suited for your child.