The conventional notion that prestigious primary schools are more likely to produce top students is gradually fading, as schools from the heartland are increasingly gaining the spotlight for honing elite students in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). And this year is not an exception.
Female student Yasmin Ziqin binte Mohamad Yousoof from Rulang Primary School emerged as this year's PSLE top scorer with an aggregate score of 283 and acing 4A*, trumping her peers from prestigious schools.
Her parents cite her independent study attitude and constant revision that played a significant role in her academic achievements. Yasmin's dad works in a banking company, while her mom is a housewife who quit her job as a lawyer to take care of her three children when Yasmin was enrolled into primary one.
Yasmin said she began studying intensely for 5-6 hours a day in June, and the days leading up to the exams placed so much stress on her that she once screamed in tears.
Thankfully, with her parents' support and advice, she managed to pull through. Even though she always does well in school, she still goes for tuition for Science and Malay subjects. She aspires to enter Raffles Girls School next year.
This is not the first time Rulang Primary School has been in the media spotlight for producing elite students. In 2009, Katie Chan Kar Yan scored an aggregate score of 283, and was among the top few students listed by MOE for the PSLE results that year.
In 2003, the school became the first neighborhood school to be awarded the Singapore Quality Class Award, and it has since won other awards including the School Distinction Award and the School Excellence Award.
Chan Cheong Cheong, vice-principal of Rulang Primary School, told Yahoo! Singapore that the school has seen drastic improvement in students' results over the years.
Besides Yasmin, another student named Nur Batrisyia Bte Abdul Wahid studying in a school in the heartland emerged as one of the top students, too. Like Rulang Primary School, Greenridge Primary School has for the past few years been making waves for producing top students.
Among the schools with at least 5 per cent of improvement in the percentage of pupils who qualify for Express course compared to the 2010 results are: Bukit View Primary School, Kheng Cheng Primary School, Park View Primary School, and White Sands Primary School, according to a press statement published by MOE.
However, the proportion of top students coming from neighbourhood schools this year is slightly lower than that of in 2009. Seven of the 13 best students in the previous year came from schools in the heartland, as compared to only two out 17 this year.
A maths teacher from Hai Sing Catholic School said it is heartening to see that there is a narrower inequality gap between neighbourhood and prestigious schools in terms of academics.
"It is good to see neighbourhood schools catching up academically, and I guess it's high time to recognise the collective efforts of all teachers who have made it happen," she told Yahoo! Singapore.
"I personally think that people need to change their mindset about neighbourhood primary schools," she added.
The writer is a 17-year-old student and technology blogger who loves social media and gadgets. He is also Singapore's top Twitter user with over 220,000 followers.