Teachers' passion drives Xinmin
THIS year, neighbourhood school Xinmin Secondary had to turn away more than 600 students clamouring to get into its nine Secondary 1 classes.
The numbers have been overwhelming for a while now, so much so the former dumping ground for thuggish sorts and the academically weak had a qualifying score last year of 236 for the Express stream, comparable with Chung Cheng High and Crescent Girls'.
The principal, Mrs Low-Sim Ay Nar, who joined the school last year, puts the school's move up the rankings to staff and the students.
'The teachers are very motivated, very passionate... and it inspires our students to give their all,' she said.
The number of applicants who put Xinmin as first choice has been growing year by year from a pathetic 32 in 1992 to 2001's record 1,539. It has grown with each award the school has picked up for its knack of turning ordinary students into good performers.
It has been getting one every year for the last decade, the only school here to have such an unbroken run of value-added awards.
This year, the autonomous school also moved up a rung into 20th place on the list of Express stream schools and remained in pole position for Normal stream schools. All its Express stream students had at least five O-level passes last year, while 88 per cent of its Normal stream students managed the same results.
To get those kind of results, some teachers stayed till 8pm every day for two months before the exams, tutoring those who are weak.
The school, which opened before World War II as Sin Min High School, a private Chinese-medium school in Upper Serangoon, started its climb in 1992, while it was in Hougang. Then, it was No 134 on the rankings list.
Now, the school is looking beyond good grades to boosting such things as the students' confidence. In April, it sent all Secondary 1 students to public-speaking classes.
Students past and present have nothing but kudos for the school and its staff.
Former student Joel Tan, 18, who had a PSLE score of 172, said he is studying engineering at Singapore Polytechnic because of Xinmin. 'My morale was very low in Secondary 1,' he said.
Said Secondary 4 student Vivienne Tseng, 16: 'The teachers here are really dedicated, and I'm very proud Xinmin is my school.'