April 23, 2005
At 13, he aces A-level maths paper
Now NUS High School arranges one-to-one undergrad lessons for him with NUS don

By Sandra Davie

EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT

GOH Jun Le is only 13, but the Secondary 1 student sat for the A-level mathematics paper last year and aced it.

Now, to help him go even further, his school, the National University of Singapore (NUS) High School of Mathematics and Science, has made arrangements for him to take up undergraduate courses on the subject.

Instead of attending lectures and tutorials with the NUS undergraduates, he has weekly one-to-one lessons with one of the top mathematics dons at NUS, Professor Chong Chi Tat, the former deputy vice-chancellor of the university.

Jun Le, who aspires to be a university professor, insists that he is no boy genius.

'I am only good in maths and science. You must look at my literature marks. Very average,' said the soft-spoken boy.

He is no bookworm either. Free time finds him at the swimming pool or bowling alley or out cycling. If he watches television at all, it's mostly the news.

His father, Mr Goh Seng Chai, a manager in a manufacturing firm, said the older of his two boys - the younger is six - never had private tuition in maths.

But he and his wife, a housewife, noticed that Jun Le was unusually gifted in maths at a young age and had no problems with the questions in textbooks pitched at much older children.

In Primary 1, while his classmates were just beginning to add and subtract, Jun Le was already attempting algebra and geometry.

In Primary 3, he sat for the O-level mathematics paper as a private candidate and scored a B.

In Primary 6, he sat for the University of London A-level mathematics paper which dealt with the more difficult concepts such as integration, differentiation and vectors, and scored an A.

Mr Goh said he was keen on NUS High for his son because it allows students to pursue subjects they excel in at an accelerated pace.

'After he passed the A-level maths easily, my wife and I were wondering where do we go from here. Luckily, NUS High opened, offering this option,' said Mr Goh who has an engineering degree.

NUS High principal Lai Yee Hing said the advance modules are one of the special offerings at the school, which opened in January this year with 126 students at Secondary 1 level and another 100 students at Secondary 3 level.

Under the school's integrated programme, students need not sit for the O or A levels, but instead aim for the NUS High's own diploma.

Those who want to go overseas for university studies can sit for the Scholastic Assessment Tests as well as advancement placement tests run by the College Board which can earn them direct entry into the second year of a university in the United States.

But while at NUS High, students who are beyond their peers in a particular subject can take up university-level modules with NUS undergraduates. Associate Professor Lai said that for the younger whiz-kids like Jun Le, the school will arrange for one-to-one tutoring.

The school makes it a point to identify students who may benefit from the advance courses and has a pool of professors who have agreed to mentor the budding scientists and mathematicians.

Since January, Prof Chong has been having weekly tutorials with Jun Le and describes the boy as 'a joy' to teach.

'He already has very good mathematical ability. I am just helping him to think logically and to be creative in solving the problems,' he said.

NUS High School, now temporarily at Mount Sinai Road, will move to its new Clementi campus, a 15-minute walk from NUS, by next January.

At its first speech day yesterday, Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Education Ng Eng Hen, who was the guest of honour, said the Education Ministry will match the donations to the school endowment fund, dollar for dollar, up to $1 million. The school has raised $115,000 so far.


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