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Beyond the confines of the classroom

From Normal stream to PhD course

The Straits Times, 1 August 2016 - Article featured two SP graduates who shared their journeys from the Normal stream in secondary school to studying for PhDs. Diploma in Chemical Process Technology [renamed to Diploma in Applied Chemistry (DAPC)] alumnus and NTU graduate, Nigel Tan, shared about how he was unable to focus on his PSLE preparations as his family had to downgrade to a two-room rental flat due to his father’s business going bankrupt. As a result, he did not do well for his PSLE and entered Normal (Academic) Stream. His parents could not find stable jobs and later divorced. At 14, he became a part-time chef while studying to support his mother and two younger sisters financially. Nigel eventually topped his N-level cohort at Marsiling Secondary School but later struggled with his studies at polytechnic. With the encouragement from his mother, he persevered and did well enough to enter university. Initially he wanted to work immediately after national service but after working for a year, he realised that he needed a degree to go far professionally. He entered NTU in 2013 as a student in Material Science and Engineering. Nigel is now a Graduate Research Officer, allowing him to work full-time and pursue his part-time postgraduate studies in NTU.


NTU graduates Ernest Tan (left) and Nigel Tan were once in the Normal stream. Their hard work since then has paid off and they are now studying for their PhDs and working as research engineers at the same time, Ernest with Airbus and Nigel with the university.PHOTO: NANYANG TECHNOLOGIAL UNIVERSITY