A month after entering the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in 2010, Mr Sarannath Devanathan got bored with his electronics course and saw no point in it.
He dropped out and nearly signed on with the Navy during his National Service, but an officer there convinced him to go back to school. "She asked me to think long-term, and told me that I had the potential and should go back to study," said Mr Sarannath, who has two siblings.
He did so - passing his Nitec (National ITE certificate) and going on to Singapore Polytechnic, where he is now a first-year student in electrical and electronic engineering.
"My father encouraged me to try studying one more time," said Mr Sarannath, who graduated from the ITE with a 3.9 grade point average, out of a maximum of 4.
The 22-year-old was one of 466 students who were presented yesterday with the Singapore Indian Development Association's (Sinda) Excellence Award, given to students who excel in their studies or areas such as sports. This is the largest number of winners in the award's 25-year history.
"The awards reflect the fact that there is a much broader definition of success, by recognising excellence in areas other than pure academic performance," said Sinda president Indranee Rajah, who is also Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law.
TEACHING FROM EXPERIENCE
From experience, students there can be half-hearted about their studies. I want to prevent people from making the same mistakes as I did, and show them that if you want to achieve something, it is possible.
MR SARANNATH DEVANATHAN, on his plans to return to the Institute of Technical Education as a lecturer after he obtains his degree.
She presented the awards yesterday with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is Sinda's chairman.
Ms Indranee said more of this year's award winners come from the post-secondary education categories, showing that more Indian students are pursuing their studies past secondary school.
In 2000, she said, only three-quarters of Indian students were eligible to enrol in post-secondary institutions. But by 2014, this had gone up to 95 per cent.
"However, this does not mean that we have made it and that as a community we can rest on our laurels," she said, stressing the importance of helping others who are not doing as well.
"As a community we must work to ensure that no one in our community is left behind."
This is what Mr Sarannath hopes to do eventually - working his way up to a degree before going back to ITE to become a lecturer.
"From experience, students there can be half-hearted about their studies," he said. "I want to prevent people from making the same mistakes as I did, and show them that if you want to achieve something, it is possible."