Surprise, surprise, exam scores were nowhere to be heard when members of Xinmin Secondary School were asked this question.
We speak to the former school principal, teachers, parents and students, who recently graduated from secondary school. They offer their own measure of what it means to be an accomplished student.
By Jacquelyn Ng
When Xinmin Secondary’s Class of 2022 took a final bow at their graduation ceremony, they knew that they had all come a long way.
As they headed on to the next chapter of their lives, we asked the students, teachers, their beloved principal, and the parents of the graduating cohort this question: What makes an accomplished student?
“Grit and perseverance”
Mr Tan Kuo Cheang, Xinmin Secondary’s former Principal
“Here’s the backstory of this cohort: They started Secondary 1 with a big bang – a cohort orientation at Sentosa! We had hoped to keep these types of activities up over their next few years.
“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the cohort had fewer outdoor, or larger scale, activities.
“But they made the most of it. The cohort became more resilient and creative in finding ways for bonding. Student leaders also became more adept at organising virtual celebrations like the National Day Parade.
“Over the four years, it has been my true joy and honour to watch their transformation. The cohort blossomed from Sec Ones – tentative about school life – to seniors, who are self-assured and confident. The growth in their character is far greater than any grade in an examination. It is more relevant and longer lasting.
“After all, life will continue to present them with challenges. But with the grit and perseverance the students developed, I have full confidence in their ability to face adversities head-on.”
“Kindness and resourcefulness”
Mr Jeremy Tan, Year Head
“Having been with the cohort since Secondary 1, I’ve seen how they care for and support each other. When new students transfer into the school midway through the secondary journey, everyone makes them feel welcome. During recess, they would look out for the new student, and make sure he is settled in. This speaks a lot about the unity of the cohort – nobody is left out.
“The students are also determined to make the most of their time here. Covid was a bummer because it meant the cancellation of many large-group activities. But these kids were full of initiative. They approached me to suggest the planning of virtual events for the cohort.
“What matters most to me when they leave secondary school? That they’ve grown in kindness, respect and resourcefulness.”
“Ability to learn from one’s mistakes”
Mr Loo Wen Bin, former Geography teacher at Xinmin Secondary
“I was privileged to have taught Suhailah. I was her Geography teacher in Sec One and Two Geography. I was also her CCA teacher at St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.
“Through our interactions, she made space for me to share in her struggles and triumphs. I’ve seen her laugh, and cry, both inside and outside the classroom, and allowed me to counsel her.
Suhailah as the Corps Sergeant Major (CSM) in St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.
“As a CCA leader, she came to understand that sometimes, even the best of plans don’t yield the results we want. I saw her take mistakes in her stride and reflect on what she has learnt. She uses these pointers to re-think her own leadership philosophy.
“It was a personal reminder to me that challenges and changes in life may not always be welcome, but a positive attitude – like Suhailah’s – is what defines us in these moments. It’s also what will carry us long and far in life.”
“Having a group of trusted friends”
Nargis Syahir Pillai, on her friendship with Drama Club President Tricia Tan
“Tricia and I are friends from the English Drama Club. She was always generous with her time and patience. She was my confidante, my trusted friend. When I shared my personal struggles with her, she never uttered a judgmental word. Her approachable nature and positive outlook on life always brought me great comfort and assurance.
Tricia directing the Drama Club during a performance rehearsal.
“She also contributed greatly to the CCA. During events like the Sec One orientation or Open House, Tricia had many fun ideas. When we needed help with putting up decorations or manning the CCA booth, you look around, and you would see Tricia. She always volunteered with a smile. This motivated me to do the same.
“Tricia has a group of well-trusted friends, who will walk with her through the post-secondary journey, and hopefully beyond. That’s priceless.”
“Love, consideration and personal growth”
Mr and Mrs Ho, parents of Sheena Ho
“Our small girl has grown into a young lady."
“There’s no doubt that her school experience changed her. Very positively, in fact. In Secondary 1, it didn’t seem like she had much focus on her studies. In comparison, in Secondary 4, she created a revision schedule by herself and stuck to it.
“In the past, when she was stumped by schoolwork, she would give up quite easily. Now, she tries and tries again."
Sheena reflecting on how she has grown over her secondary school journey. Catch her in action here.
“Sheena also became more confident in trying new things, like filming a marketing video for her Chinese Dance CCA. As the dance leader, she also had to take in different opinions from her team.
“This thoughtfulness extended into our home. She became more respectful of our views, and started to consider our feelings. For example, while she used to be eager to spend time with her friends during the school holidays, she turned down a gathering during the March holidays. We asked her why, and she said it’s because her mummy was on leave, and she wanted to spend time together with her.
“We want to tell Sheena how proud we are of her. Results in school aren’t everything. What makes us proudest is seeing how kind and mature she has become.”
We followed a group of students from Xinmin Secondary over four years of their education journey. Watch their experience and reflections on their Secondary school journey at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scIzzL7RPys&list=PLgBw4fHUtzK1CuCBZ3g5p1sWCkY4gdHyK