SINGAPORE - One made meteoric progress in mathematics and aspires to be a Chinese teacher, while the other shot from grade F9 to A2 in O-Level Science and is now on the way to fulfilling his primary school dream of being a filmmaker.
For Ms Diana Chia Hui Ping and Mr T Pravin, both 17, learning knows no bounds, and poor academic results at the beginning only made them study even harder in the quest to lead successful lives in the future.
They were among the 743 PSLE and GCE N- and O-Level students from low-income families who were rewarded with $91,800 in book vouchers at Nanyang Polytechnic on Saturday (Aug 26) for making significant improvements in their studies.
The vouchers were given out at the annual Joint Tuition Awards Ceremony, which has been jointly organised since 2004 by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Eurasian Association, Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Yayasan MENDAKI. They are collectively known as the Self-Help Groups (SHGs).
The awardees are beneficiaries of the SHGs' Collaborative Tuition Programme, which gives students from low income families of different races access to affordable tuition island-wide. The number of tuition centres under this programme has grown from 11 centres when it was launched in 2002 to 83 centres today.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) & Second Minister for Defence, who presented the awards to the students, said: "For one generation to do better than the next, children's education must be properly cared for... Educating children well is the best leveller to make sure that everyone in society can do well."
He lauded the awardees, saying that despite their families' financial constraints they had excelled in their studies. He also praised the creativity of the SHGs' collaboration, citing the song "Coming Together, Achieving Together" that they had composed with lyrics in four languages, which he said "beautifully captures the spirit" of the SHGs.
The SHGs also revealed more details of a joint centre first announced in June, which will offer educational programmes, workshops and multicultural events for students and parents.
The centre, whose name is yet to be finalised, will be set up at Blk 145 Yishun Street 11 by January 2018, replacing the existing CDAC@Yishun.
It will have five classrooms with seating for 14 to 20 people, a computer laboratory for 12 people, a mini library, an internet surfing corner and a self-study area.
CDAC executive director Pok Cheng Chong said: "Each SHG is unique in its own way, but we believe that there are areas that we can collaborate to achieve more.
"The SHGs Centre is an initiative to reflect our unique and inclusive approach in uplifting our community."
Sinda chief executive K Barathan added: "By bringing our programmes directly to where the people live, we hope to offer every single child educational and development opportunities, regardless of their circumstances."