Truth behind my JC life

5:41 PM

Today is currently day 5 after the release of results. Life has been going on fine for me since i've got things to keep me preoccupied but it was a little tough keeping the optimism going today.

From sunday night till last night, my mind has been flooded with so much thought about the past 2 years. Everything that has happened, which is prolly going to determine some of the things that are going to happen this year.

Yesterday morning, I chanced upon a friend's facebook note which I could relate to so much, and was just somewhat the stuff that has been running through my mind the entire night before. It felt so real and I couldn't help but cried a little to myself again. Not out of self pity or sadness but rather, out of this "lost" feeling I have been carrying with me for 2 years.

The night before A level results were released, I tweeted this:
"just looked thru my report book from primary sch to sec sch.. what does life offers me 13 hours later?"
(pls pardon the grammatical error lol)

Life has always been great and kind to me since primary school. Producing grades that were above average were not a problem for me and for a few occasions, I could just bag home some model student award or the top 2/3 in level award home back then. I did decent for PSLE but I already had a place in Anderson because of DSA. In lower sec I learnt that I have to work super hard to prove myself worthy of my spot in the school because it's not going to be easy if I didn't try or work hard for it. In Anderson, my life had so many changes that I can't be more grateful for. I am extremely thankful for such a holistic education in a neighbourhood school, the abundance of opportunities given to me to excel and perform. To prove who I can be. I knew I was someone who dared to speak but I never knew I was capable of achieving so much within 4 years. I have done so much, invested so much time in what I enjoy and was given so much back in return. I met so many people and friends, teachers included who had an impact and made a difference in my life, even till this point in today.

My grades, as I proceeded into upper sec, were far from being those expected out of the top class there. In my sec 4 year, I didn't pass all my subjects even till prelims. I had an L1R5 of 17 then and but I didn't lose hope in doing well. I could tell my teachers were all worried but I could also sense that they did not feel that I could not make it there. & yes, a miracle did happen and I made it. But I knew for sure that I wouldn't have made it without the constant encouragement from my teachers and even my principal. (I was recovering from a back injury back then and I will not forget the days when our principal will just approach me and ask if I am recovering well and all) I had a great ending at 16 years of age before I began to embark on a new journey.

With my score, I could go anywhere I wanted. But I believe fate has brought me to this place. I could go anywhere I wanted, but then, I only had HC as my choice in mind. I don't know if it's all about the packaging and imaging and "overglorifying" of everything as mentioned in the previous post, but I still chose it as my choice even when my parents told me i should have put Raffles as first choice.

And that was when, life decided to stop being so kind to me.

Life was of course a breeze during the first three honeymoon months. But when things started getting serious, the ugly side of such an elite education begins to surface as well. In an extremely big cohort of 1.2k, to stand out, there are only a few ways:

1) Be those "high profile" people back in high school
2) Be those who are extremely intellectually gifted to bag home almost 1000 achievements
3) do extremely bad to have a nice tea session in the office with the dean/vp/p

If not? You are merely part of the "hwachong stereotype" which is defined as "WA A LEVELS SURE DO DAMN WELL" by the public and other jcs. Which is what, ultimately hurt us and stresses us out the most.

Even the opportunities to shine and even for OCIP/school trips is to be the "top 60%" of the cohort and blahblahblah. Everything you do, you have to be the top x% of some exam or test. Every single day of my Jc life, I felt like I was in a competition that I mustn't lose.

I didn't lose, I was simply the last few.

I remember there was this week in July 2010, when I was in J1 where I cried every single day, even during school time because I just cannot accept the environment here. It was too.... elite for me to handle. I was even judged for having come from a neighbourhood school.

In the first place, I came here almost all alone because I had no close friends with me. It was hard to find someone that I could actually pour everything out to and relate to and it just seem like everyone was just too busy trying to run to the top of the mountain and all I wanna do is to back trek. And the point is, even if you back trek, nobody really notice because you are just 1 out of the thousand.

So small, so insignificant, that I was almost invisible.

I told myself back then that if I couldn't clear promos then, out of this school I'll go. Eventually I cleared promos and stayed. Well, actually I will most likely stay because I actually enjoyed CCA lots because dancing has always been my stress-reliever and like I've already said for the 10000th time, HCCD was one of the main reasons why I actually did want to come to HC and did not regret coming to HC.

I was just thankful that there was actually something about this school that I could enjoy, and that SALT centre (where my CCA is usually held at) doesn't feel like part of the school.

Stepping into 2011, being a J2 then became a completely different thing with a totally different story. I made the grand decision to downgrade my Econs to H1 even when I could comfortably continue and sink into that sea of Us for H2 Econs, and wait for good grades to drop from the sky during A levels. Many people were against my decision because to them, "HC Econs is tough and you'll eventually make it there". To everyone, every bad grade that I got in HC could be easily accounted by using such an excuse. But I was glad I followed my own decision and know that I really am not a single bit talented for Econs and didn't force my way through. If I did, I really don't know what will become of my A levels grades, considering how badly HC did for H2 Econs this year. It really, as of now, didn't matter who judged me at that point in time saying I was incompetent anymore. Because I know I made the right choice.

I spent and gave all my time to dance in December holidays and the first term of school that I didn't study much, and flunked my Block Test 1. I got a UUS/UD (in the order of H2 math,chem, geog/h1 econs, gp) and my mum was invited to meet the dean or whoever it is (seriously? the school is so huge that i wouldn't know who is who unless they taught me before)

That was the first unpleasant thing that happened to me in 2011 because in my entire life, nobody had asked to see my parents even when I was failing so bad in Sec 4 SA1. oh and thanks to the school's system in establishing a strong parent-teacher relationship, they initiated the sms without even notifying yours truly. I didn't even have the chance to inform my mum what the heck was going on in my life at that moment and it panicked her out so bad like I was going to be a drop-out or something. From that point onwards, I knew I wasn't the kind cut out to be part of an elite top school or whatever because I just couldn't stand the way things functioned and all.

I couldn't even find a reason to go to school and I don't know who to turn to to confide and all but I was sure I was mentally stable enough to handle it all on my own, even if there wasn't a single person out there who could empathize with me entirely about my situation and feelings of being in here. I was a regular customer to the college reception for the green slip (known as the out-of-campus pass) and I have even mapped out my own "escape routes" out of school that I won't be caught or questioned by the security guards.

For every single lecture test/block test, you'll never fail to see 10S68 being the symmetry with the top classes. It got so often that we would even rejoice when we finally make a rank up to the 2nd last (but the last will still belong to us eventually the next round). Sometimes, you'll even see us kid with the neighbouring S69 for "stealing" our 1st position from the back. I don't know how anyone else actually felt, or if anyone else from the better classes actually noticed that we're at the other spectrum, but for one thing I know, it was almost like we're almost invisible and we barely heard any nice words of encouragement from the lecturers and all. Yes, they did present to us statistics that 50% who got U will eventually make it to A/B but that's not what we are really interested about. Some of us, we struggle so hard to even get that E. Perhaps to them, we're just a slack class who don't turn up for tutorials and pon lectures and that we're happy and used to being last. But do they actually see our effort to do well too? Do they actually think we really actually enjoy being the last everytime? It was so hard for them to even know that we're still alive and breathing, because all they could care was the laughters from the rest.

I decided to work doubly hard since SYF ended but that didn't mean the dramas to my JC life was going to end there. Apparently if you fall below the 30th percentile for this/that test (you get my point), you'll be suspended from CCA and all that shit. (& my BT1 results placed me at the freaking 8th percentile) Of course I wasn't suspended but I was given a choice between doing 2 items (SYF included) for Dance Night or staying as the Logistics i/c in the planning committee.It was understandable considering the level of commitment and all and since results was all so ever important, such drastic measures has to be taken. I was just thankful I could finally have a say in this and eventually, I did 2 items and stayed in the logistics comm but wasn't the i/c anymore. It didn't matter that much to me actually since I already knew the way the school functioned but it did matter alot to me that I could finally speak up for myself for something that I wanted to do. Like finally, for the first time in 1.5 years, for something that I feel so passionate about.

Because I finally had my voice heard, I decided I will work super hard to show that I am worthy of this place in HC, I am not going to let anyone who think I'll be a straight As student down. This was also during the June holidays where I began my revision, or more like catching up my work. I also began booking consultations with my tutors because I wanted to do well. I made slight improvements during Block Test 2, with grades of DUD/ES. (okay funny that it spells dudes like that) It was nothing near great but I was happy I made an improvement and I was just thankful some of my tutors saw the improvement as well. At least it didn't make me feel so invisible and insignificant. But it was still bad enough for me to easily place myself at the bottom 30 percent of our cohort.

Time got lesser, everyone tried their best to make it to the cream of the crop as prelims and A levels approached. Truth is, I didn't do well for prelims either. I got a grade of SUD/UD for prelims when everyone else has already improved all the way up to As,Bs and Cs. It was close to the A levels and time was running out. Everyone was panicking and so was I. I felt so close, so close to giving up. I broke down several times, mainly the days when I got back my prelim results because I felt so lousy and helpless that despite putting in so much effort, results barely showed. I feared that I wouldn't make it in time for A levels. I feared that my A level grades wouldn't differ much from my J2 performance.

But there was nobody to turn to, because everyone was too engaged in this race to the top and nobody has the time for you. All you have is yourself.

It was like at that point in time, everyone was so busy doing up their personal statements and applying to the UK universities and all I could do was to sit there and envy, and get back to my work, feeling all lost because where I'll end up will be determined by what's coming up next. I was thankful that there were still friends who were there for me during those times to tell me not to ever give up.

I told myself that if a miracle happened to me during O levels, anything is possible for A levels. I didn't give up. I just kept going on and studying like that was the only thing I could do in my life at that point in time. I went for consults with my tutors who gave me so much encouragement and all. My math tutor, who also happened to be my CT tutor told me that she believed I will do well for A levels and I am truly capable of getting straight As for A levels despite all the grades that i've been producing (none of them were above D) and she always had such nice things to say about me under the remarks column for our progress report. I was truly thankful despite some misunderstandings that happened in J1.

It gave me so much strength to work hard and persevere on till the end because there was someone who finally believed in me, besides all my friends, where most simply assumed I'll do well "because I'm in hwachong". Even though when the results were out 5 days ago and I didn't make it there, in fact I was really far from being there, I felt that my hard work has pretty much paid off.

I didn't achieve any fantastic grades or even something that any of my friends had expected me to get. Or rather, anyone who thought a HC student will get. Because to them, I am from HC and I'm supposed to be at the top. But I have to quote Sarah from here (she's the friend aforementioned above)

" Yes I'm in hwachong, but I'm not part of the majority who pulls through the A levels with flying colours. I struggled very badly."

It has truly been the toughest 2 years of my life to get through. Even during A levels itself, I ran a fever during my H1 Econs paper and Chem Paper 2, which developed into a high fever during the Physical Geog paper the next day. Life didn't favour me even till the most crucial moments to prove myself of my worth. I lived under tremendous stress and neverending competition daily, having to meet the expectations of people from outside.

That fateful day:

My phone, and twitter were influxed with people asking me how I did and all, all sounding excited because well, of the stereotype. but guess what was my exact feelings at that point in time? I really didn't know how to answer anyone. I felt like a freaking loser who got 6 points and end up with lousy A level results that everyone will gossip/judge about. I felt like I had nowhere to go from that point onwards. I wonder if these 2 years were ever worth my time at all.

I had every negative thought about this HC stereotype and for that moment, I wish I didn't exist. I wished I could have just ran away from every single question in my life posted at me, I wish I could escape. I even had friends asking me if I DID NOT STUDY AT ALL for A levels which resulted in my results.

I felt so freaking offended but I can't blame them. To them, I have always been someone who achieve academic excellence because I work very hard for it. If I were not in hc and my hc friend did the same, I will probably think that way too. Like "hello? are you kidding me about your results that you studied for it? your school is like a top school....." blabla yada yada.

In my opinion, this whole "top school" thing is a partial scam. The fact behind all this glory is in selective publication. All you have to do is to tweak the way you present your results. What used to be a 80% distinction rate for H2 Geography now becomes a 80% A&B for H2 Geography. Hey, 80% sounds so great right? Who knows actually if you count distinction alone it is only about 50%? and that'll make us lose face because we prolly lose to our arch rival Raffles and other schools. The point is to not publish your bad results(take GP for an example. Anyone saw a slide that wrote 30% distinction for GP that day?)  than to publish them and allow your own reputation to go down, and allow room for criticism.

This realisation seriously came in too late. Outsiders, or even myself in the past would think that "wow, such results are really fantastic" but having seen the truth behind everything, it all just seem like it's for marketing purpose. It's like we're all invisible to them. The disparity is so great that if the other 600 of us who didn't score at least 3A or above, we can form another school and be ranked last in the jc list.

It feels like I was fooled into this place because I was totally bought over by their marketing campaign of presenting the image of being so fun and everything. Our open house is all so warm and homely, orientation is so fun and enjoyable but when things get real, they get seriously real, and stressful, and competitive, and everything negative, for me at least.

I hope that from this, everyone from other schools will learn to erase this stereotype about us. Because it has been so hard trying to live up to the stereotype for so many of us in here but honestly, there is always such an ugly truth behind an elite education system. Very, very ugly in fact. It got us, even the students fooled till the day of results day.

But after I calmed down that night from all the crying and resentment over the school for the 700th day perhaps, I finally saw things in a more positive light. I did my fair share of feeling upset over a set of ugly results which wouldn't earn me any compliments from my friends( it was more likely to attract judgements) but it was also time to face up to reality.

The big reveal now is that I only had 1A for my A levels.
I scored a grade of BBC/BA. Just a glance at it, this could well be the prelim grades for anyone from the higher-end classes in school. But this was my A level results. There wasn't a single H2 A, and the A I got in the entire cert was GP. Even my PW was a B.

When I got my O level results, that moment was magical. But when I got my A level results, that moment was terrible.

But I realised that I felt so terrible that day was partly because there was too much comparison going on. Between my grades and everyone else from other schools who did way better. Eventually I shut myself up to all these comparisons and decided to analyse my results and honestly, I felt happy about my results.

It was totally a heaven and earth thing if you compare with my entire JC performance. My prelims had a rank point of 31.25 but my A level had a rank point of 77.5. I know to many of you, who easily hit above 80 rank point, my 77.5 is nothing to you. But it means alot to me. This is the result of the pain, tears, sufferings and hard work for 2 years. It is the outcome of my 2 years struggle in a place I tried so hard to survive. It shows that my hard work did pay off in a sense though not in the best outcome it could have.

And well, this brings me to another point about the things we say. I rmb when I said I couldnt make it for an A for Math, people around me all thought I was joking, like they had that mentality that "Hc's bad is still very very good". Yes, there are truly people in my school who are like that but there is really a group of us who truly mean what we say and there's often fear in our confessions like that. We fear judgement, we fear expectations, we fear disappointments. When I received my prelims grades and told some how bad it was, all they commented was "But HC's U is like other school's C what" I really had no idea how to reply to such comments because deep down, I really wasn't certain if I'll ever ever make it back up there. People always assume that being at the bottom of the top still places you somewhere in the middle but actually, we're all at the bottom all the same. These were the truly helpless moments where nobody could empathize with my feelings because everyone else around me either thought I was just kidding or they had good enough grades for them to not relate to this. There was so much uncertainty within myself yet so much expectations to live up to, it was suffocating but all I could do was to live with it and try to live up to it.

Final thoughts:

I have just spent 2 years of my life in a place I did not enjoy being in and the least I thought was to have a good outcome and ending to it but I don't think this is the best ending I want. This entire chapter of my life came at the price of so many things, it took away so much happiness and friends from me and brought so much more sadness to my life. But probably at the end of the day, despite not benefiting from the elite education system as functioned in hc, at least I am fortunate in an unfortunate way to be able to experience an education system as such. Maybe there are really the plus side to it, which is why they still never fail to produce top scorers annually but it's negative side is of course obvious and concrete enough in this year's results now.

I am super grateful for having been put into 10S68. We may be the worst performing class for every single exam, even the A Levels but I'm glad we're unique and so different in our own way. We're not exactly a bonded class but these are the people who've been through the exact same labyrinthine journey with me for the past 2 years. Our subject tutors especially, who never ever gave us up despite us bringing them so much troubles and being so hard to handle. Attendance problems, attention span problems and not delivering work on time. Thinking back, we were really a havoc bunch of students who didn't seem like we were much interested in studying. I never ever thought it was actually so tough not losing faith in us till I became a teacher/instructor myself and I have to work so hard to get the students' attention in class.

After I settled down my emotions for the night and overcome the whole results day drama, I am eventually thankful for all the people around me who've been there to comfort me and made sure I am alright, including some of my secondary school teachers. I'm sorry to all who I've disappointed because you had such high hopes that I'll do well but I didn't. But I know I haven't let myself down, because I survived this rocky road. I did not succumb to all the challenges that visited and I remained strong and held on to this tightly.

To me, I believe that whatever that has happened were all fated to be-- my decision, my experience and my results.

Life has been too kind to me and so decided to give it a twist. And I am glad I am out of it and have emerged stronger after this. Good or bad, it is all in the past and purely a learning experience that will follow me for the lifetime. Like what I had similarly posted when O's results was posted, this is probably what life has in store for us. No matter how much we avoid it, if it's meant to happen, it will happen.

The only solution now is to embrace the life we have right now and look forward to a better future ahead. the past cannot be undone or erased so there is also no need for us to feel sad over it anymore. I hope that all my friends in HC who hasn't done so well will learn to get over this little obstacle soon. Life isn't really all that bleak seriously, and that we've all been the strongest people to have pulled through this. You're not alone, you haven't been alone and you won't be alone. Look at the brighter side of life, because that's when the sun shines :)

The only way from here now on is to bounce back higher than before. Our grades will get us to somewhere, somehow and it will most likely be the best for us (:

This has officially marked the end to my education at HC. To me, it's a "omg finally" thing because I've been waiting for it to come but I am also grateful for these 2 years which has taught me and exposed me to another side of life, not possibly the best but I'm sure it'll do me good sometime in my life. Here's wishing everyone that I've ever crossed paths with in HC all the best in life ahead and thank you for being part of this experience I had!

PS: Everything posted above is true to my personal experience in the school. I know there is a bulk of people who'll not agree with what I have to say about the elite system because you've really benefited from it. But I hope you'll not judge me even if you disagree, because these are truest to my feelings. I have left this post in the draft page for a day before finally decided to give it the final touch up and publish it now.

With lots of love.

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