SINGAPORE - As a student at the Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Abdul Hakam Nor Razak had to take 10 subjects as part of the Islamic curriculum at the religious school.
On top of that, he was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).
Early last week, the 18-year-old was one of 25 students in the madrasah who received their IB results. They are the pioneer batch in this programme, which began in January 2019.
Even while juggling it with his Islamic education, Hakam managed to score 42 points out of the maximum 45. He was the madrasah's top scorer.
The IB curriculum consists of six subjects and three core components - namely theory of knowledge, an extended essay, and creativity, activity and service.
In this last component, students have to complete a project related to those three concepts.
Hakam's six chosen subjects were chemistry, mathematics, Arabic, English, Malay literature and politics.
On how he did so well, he said: "I enjoy learning and studying isn't a chore for me.
"During the holidays, I read up about science and maths, which supplemented my knowledge about the subjects."
He also has a keen interest in politics and English. He frequently reads news articles and keeps track of global affairs.
But juggling the IBDP and his Islamic education was not easy, he said. Over the two years, most school days started at 7.30am and ran till 5pm.
While he has completed the IBDP, his Islamic classes have not ended. He still has about two months of school left.
Hakam said he was initially anxious at the thought of being part of the madrasah's pioneer IBDP batch.
"We had no seniors to talk to and seek advice from, and I was also quite anxious about the school's preparedness for the programme - whether the teachers had the right training and whether I could get a good score."
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said the IBDP complements the school-based Islamic Studies curriculum.
"The learning experience, training, exposure, research and investigation rigour, as well as community service activities and engagements not only prepare students for university life but also the necessary thinking skills and perspectives," said Muis, adding that these are critical for future religious scholars and leaders.
Having completed the programme, Hakam said he likes that students' grades in the IBDP are not solely based on their final exams.
He added: "We also have assignments that are kind of like a mini thesis, where we have to research on something and do a write-up on it.
"The IB allows us to explore our areas of interest independently, and it was something I enjoyed."