WHILE it usually takes five years for students to complete their secondary education, Oon Kai Jie managed to do it by the age of 15 – and in sublime fashion to boot.
He scored 11A*, 1A and 1B in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examinations in which he sat for three papers in October 2020, six in June 2021 and four in October 2021.
And this feat was achieved at a time when most students were grappling with the sudden switch to online learning due to the disruptions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My effort had certainly been translated into concrete results.
“What I feel about my achievement is what any person who engages with the arts and crafts would feel when he has succeeded at moulding raw materials into a refined product – from a block of stone to a sculpture,” he told StarEdu.
Kai Jie, who attended a secondary school in Puchong, Selangor, for three months before opting to be homeschooled, attributes his success to his “mentors”.
“I would like to thank my parents and my Additional Mathematics and Chemistry tutor Mr Liew Zhi Wen for my achievements,” said the 16-year-old who is pursuing the A-Levels at Sunway College under a full scholarship. His father Oon Kiow See, he said, had signed him up for one-to-one tutoring for each of his 13 IGCSE subjects.
As his studies coincided with the enforcement of the movement control order to curb the spread of the pandemic, he had to contend with online tutoring.
“With online classes, I found it harder to concentrate and there was no real teacher-student interaction,” he recalled.
That, however, did nothing to deter him from progressing in his learning.
“Maintaining an undistracted focus in class, gaining a better understanding of the study materials by explaining them in my own words to my teachers, doing past year examination questions and revising the previous lesson before the start of the next class were large factors in my IGCSE success,” he shared.
Kai Jie, who was awarded the Top in Malaysia and High Achievement recognition for Combined Science and International Mathematics, respectively, by Cambridge Assessment International Education, added that the key to academic success is understanding that it takes time to learn from one’s mistakes, and gain confidence from the improvement made.
“For heavy fact-based subjects like Biology, memorisation of important points is essential. You can implement a spaced repetition schedule, where you return to the material and test yourself at intervals until the information is absorbed into your long-term memory,” he said.
As most of his time was spent attending online tutoring and doing self-study, Kai Jie admitted that his secondary education had been a solitary journey.
“With the added experience of my time at Sunway now, it is evident that studying alone without peers was a time of missed opportunities for joy, being with peers and forming special bonds with them,” he said.
“Only now do I understand the value of friendship,” he added.
Motivated by his IGCSE success, Kai Jie, who studies Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics at the A-Levels, is excited about his journey ahead. “I hope to obtain scholarships after completing my A-Levels next year and gain admission to a top university in the United Kingdom to study science,” he revealed.
“I believe that the desire to learn and expand our understanding should be the prime mover behind why we get up from our beds every morning.
“We must strive to be a more complete human being and develop our innate passion for discovery,” he added.
Allison, 18, a student in Penang, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.