Lim Cheng Teck, 17, refuses to let challenges such as coping with his parents' divorce and his family's financial difficulties get in the way of his dream: to study international trade and business.
The Secondary 4 student in the Normal (Academic) stream at Swiss Cottage Secondary School said he has always wanted to pursue the course at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
"It suits me. I like the course content and its big ideas," said the teenager.
But his parents' divorce when he was in Primary 5 affected his studies. Cheng Teck said this "sad and confusing" period in his life contributed to a Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) score of "less than 150".
"I did a lot of self-reflection after collecting my PSLE results. I started to plan my future and how I was going to study hard, with the help of my sister. I hope to work for a better life for my parents," said Cheng Teck , whose 19-year-old sister, Brenda, is a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate.
The siblings' 37-year-old mother, Ms Nurliana, who uses only one name, works as a cleaner.
Cheng Teck's sister helped coach him in mathematics and he is good in the subject. He sat his O-Level elementary mathematics examination at the same time as his N-Level exams earlier this year.
The teenager had done well enough earlier to move from the Secondary 2 Normal (Technical) stream to the Normal (Academic) stream. But the steep learning curve and drop in grades that came with this switch, which introduced him to unfamiliar subjects such as geography, almost made him want to give up. He persevered, however, with encouragement from his family.
Yesterday, Cheng Teck found out that he scored a Grade 1 in additional mathematics, three Grade 2s for combined science, combined humanities and Chinese, as well as a Grade 3 in English.
He said he is happy with his results but anxious about whether he has made the cut for his "dream course" at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, although he still aims to apply for it.