SVA Boys 2010
From May 13th 2014 through June 16th 2014, the boys of Sadhana Visionary Academy (SVA) and I, Guhanathaswami–their caretaker and tutor, started the day with the aim of getting to the heart of KL from Klang in the earliest hours of the morning before the road chocking rush hour. The boys had to be at Wisma Sejarah (just opposite IJN on Jln. Tun Razak) by 9.00 am to sit for the Edexcel IGCSE ‘O' Levels exams. All four SVA boys Dines, Moshi, Ganesh and Ugesh were registered for the exam by PKAM. They sat for six subjects: English, Tamil, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. There were 11 exam days through the month period and we made it well ahead of time and without incident on all the days, thank God.
The boys are scholarship students of PKAM who were vetted from 3 Tamil schools, namely Ladang Lenggeng, Kirby and Nilai Tamil schools. The three schools are part of PKAM's Food-Aid programme, and with cooperation of the teachers and parents of the boys they were enrolled into PKAM's Education Aid Programme, Sadhana Visionary Academy after getting good results in the 2009 UPSR exams.
SVA was envisioned by PKAM’s founder, Mr. Alagappa as a scholarship school to ensure academic success for qualifying students after completing their standard six Tamil education. Centred on the concept of homeschooling with an emphasis on motivating students towards self-study SVA was launched in November 2009 with orientation programmes for seven students. Four of those students opted in and the programme officially began in January 2010.
SVA’s education curriculum was charted by our Academic Director Dr. Ratna Malar Selvaratnam who was a former programme director at Taylor’s University. It was decided that the boys would be prepared for London Board’s Edexcel ‘O’ Levels because of its flexibility in student requirements and international standing. The school started with two employed full time teachers teaching pre-‘O’ Levels and Tiru A.M.K. Balan PJK who volunteered to coach the students in Tamil Language.
SVA boys with teachers and other students celebrating Dines' birthday 2012
After four and a half years the boys sat for the exam. Their results are as follows:
Ganeshwaran: 3A, 2B, 1D
Moshilaruban: 2A, 3B, 1D
Dinesh Kumar: 2A, 1B, 2C, 1D
With one straight As student and A/B average for the rest, we are convinced of the growing impact of online education resources in preparing students to face international qualifications like IGCSE. Thanks to computers donated by Basis Bay and Mr. Kana Thamby the boys and I plied the internet for resources such as Youtube videos, past year papers and marking schemes that went a long way in prepping for the exam.
As summary breakdown of our experience, following is the seven step prep method we used for the exam:
Go to Edexcel's website and for all the subjects that you need, get their curriculum content, past exam papers and marking scheme. Download also the grade boundaries for all the subjects. Understanding the grade boundaries is important to develop an answering strategy.
Get the recommended textbooks from Edexcel's website for all the subjects from your local book stores (University Book Store in PJ) or Amazon.com.
Read the textbooks (of biology, chemistry and physics) cover to cover. Don't worry about complete understanding or memorising of facts just yet. This exercise is just to familiarise with the subject matter and to get a glimpse of how the chapters relate to each other. Of course it is no point reading the Maths text book cover to cover. Maths is about practicing sums.
Use the past year exam questions (use about 2-3 sets, or 4 to 6 papers), analyse the questions and organise them according to their sections and chapters of the syllabus, do this as early as possible–way before the exams instead of keeping this effort for last. Learn to answer the questions according to the marking scheme and familiarise with how questions are posed from the subject matter. You will find after doing a number or questions that, while question are not the same year after year, the answers are about the same. Create notes on answer patterns, such as how to give answers to questions that ask to 'explain' or 'suggest' or 'describe' etc. Also learn not to 'over-answer'.
Use Youtube videos as visual aids of the subject matter. It helps students memorise facts, laws and visualise how events such as chemical reactions take place. The boys found that the best videos are often created by other students, not necessarily videos on Kahn Academy or TED Edu. Keep a list of all the best videos for later reference. Do this in tandem with studying the past year papers.
Develop an answering strategy based on the grade boundaries. For instance if a paper provides 120 marks and has to be completed in 2 hours; it works out to a minute a mark, which is not much time for thinking. Using the grade boundaries to plan on the grade to attempt, either A-star, A or B, a student can shed between 30-40 marks, thus gaining as much time to concentrate on answering questions they are most confident in and reducing stress during the exam.
Create mock exams with unattempted exam papers reserved for this and gauge preparedness.
SVA continues in supporting the boys with furthering their education into tertiary programmes. As of this Valentine Games, Dines has begun his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, Ganesh is doing Foundation in Science–both of them in INTI International College in Nilai, Moshilaruban is doing an accounting course in preparation for LCCI in Setia Institute, Seremban while Ugeswaran has applied for the ASEAN scholarship to do 'A' Levels.
PKAM will continue to support and follow the boys through to the culmination of their tertiary education. With your generous support all these years these four students under PKAM’s Education Aid have embarked on a clear future as professionals. We are half way through this chapter of community uplift through education and we hope and pray you will rejoice along with us in our achievements thus far and continue your generous support.
Caretaker and tutor of the SVA boys
P.S. On behalf of the boys and the founders (Mr. Alagappa, Dr. Ratnamalar and I) of SVA I offer you my utmost gratitude.