From poor ‘O’ levels to 5 degrees & 13 diplomas


Poor O-Level results should not count in university admissions

I refer to the article “How much should O levels matter? The case for late bloomers” (Sunday Times, Aug 12).

It states that “applying to enter the National University of Singapore (NUS) or Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The applicant would have a composite university admission score used to evaluate him or her, of which 20 per cent is made up of the applicant’s O-level results and 80 per cent comes from the grade point average, or GPA, achieved at the polytechnic.

Observers have called for a review of this, arguing that the weightage of the O levels should be reduced further or done away with entirely.

Past O-level scores should have no bearing on future performance, say observers.”

According to the article “From worst in class to principal of design school” (Sunday Times, Aug 12) – “O-Level results in 1978: One B, one C, three Ds, one E and one credit. He sat the paper a total of four times, doing badly every time.

Now: Principal of design school

“My experiences have helped me understand those who are late bloomers. I can feel for this group of people who are lost,” he said.”

After reading the above and the article “More than just plastic” (Sunday Times, Aug 12) about Dr Woffles Wu opening up about his life – I found the above articles so well written and inspiring that I thought I would also open up a little on my life’s “learning journey”.

My O-Level results in 1969 at Raffles Institution (RI):

One B, three Cs, two Ds, two Es (English and Chinese)

… failed and never passed Highway Code (if I drive instead of taking the bus and MRT – I estimate that I may have lost about $2 million ($1,000 monthly compounded at six per cent from age 24 to 64)

… my lowest academic score ever – 5 marks out of 100 for Art in secondary school

… took 4 A Level subjects – results were B, E, and 2 subsidiary passes

… failed the subject Principles and Practice of Insurance 3 times, in the Chartered Insurance Institute’s examinations (I eventually completed all the examinations and became a Fellow)

… only passed Part 1 of the Institute of Statisticians – did not proceed to Parts 2 and 3

… failed LUATC Part 1 exam – did not proceed to Part 2

… failed LOMA Part 1 exam – eventually passed all the examinations to become a Master Fellow of the Life Management Institute/Life Office Management Association

… failed 2 times the final part 6 of the Certified Financial Planner examinations (CFP, USA) – eventually passed and also completed the Master of Science in Financial Planning (College for Financial Planning) and the Master of Science in Financial Services and the Master of Science in Management (American College)

… completed first degree at the tender age of 32 – Bachelor of Liberal Studies (University of the State of New York)

… awarded scholarship to study in the Bachelor of Business external studies program (Monash University College Gippsland)

.. failed at least 1 subject in the Australian Insurance Institute’s examinations – eventually completes all the examination to become a Fellow, awarded worldwide subject 1st placing

Leong Sze Hian



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.