Natarajan Anitha Phireethi aced the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) last year, scoring four A*s and snagging a place at Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) with an aggregate score of 264.
But prior to the national exam, the 13-year-old, now in Secondary 1, had difficulty understanding concepts taught during science lessons and was prone to making careless mistakes - which cost her a few marks for some of her assignments.
The then Lianhua Primary School pupil might not have scored a clean sweep of distinctions if not for the devotion of her tutors from the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), a self-help group for the Indian community here.
"I was struggling with my science subject and could manage only an average B grade," she explained.
DILIGENCE, TUITION BREED SUCCESS
She was a rare student who would help her classmates out when they have doubts...
The tuition merely gave her the added push, but she would not be able to do so well if she didn't put in her own effort.
MS NADIAH ABDUL RAHIM, 27, an allied educator at Clementi Primary School, who coached Phireethi for three subjects through Primary 5 and 6, and saw her grades improve over time
"But my tutors were always approachable and ready to clarify my doubts. They would take the time to go through my mistakes and explain where I had gone wrong."
When she was in Primary 4, Phireethi joined the Sinda Tutorials for Enhanced Performance - also known as the Step programme - for English and science, and later for mathematics as well.
She was in the programme for three years, and attended after-school tuition at Clementi Primary School.
Noting that the small class size was beneficial, Phireethi said: "The tutors were able to devote more attention to each of us."
Step, one of Sinda's flagship tuition programmes, provides opportunities for less privileged primary and secondary students to receive academic help. For primary school pupils, tuition for each subject costs about $10 per month.
Phireethi knew that typical tuition centres would charge much more, but she did not want her family to spend excessively on the extra classes.
Her father, 40, works as a quantity surveyor while her mother, 35, is a housewife. She has a younger brother, aged eight. The family lives in a four-room flat in Bukit Batok.
Phireethi's tutor, Ms Nadiah Abdul Rahim, an allied educator at Clementi Primary School, coached her in three subjects through Primary 5 and 6, and helped her improve her grades over time.
"She was a rare student who would help her classmates out when they have doubts," said Ms Nadiah, 27, adding that Phireethi was also diligent in her work.
"The tuition merely gave her the added push, but she wouldn't be able to do so well if she didn't put in her own effort."