Fighting Failure: Why Bad Grades Don’t Always Mean A Bad Career

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He felt rejected and beaten down by the education system because of several bad experiences. But he found a way up.

Throughout his whole life, Ken Ng felt like he was destined for failure. At the tender age of 12, he scored 91/300 in a national exam, which set the course of his life, or so he thought.

Ken had a childhood that was a little rough. A lot of his time was spent alone, and he didn’t have opportunities to develop his interests. School was always very tough, and he felt like he hit a wall no matter how hard he tried.

His score meant he was put in the lowest academic stream in secondary school (Normal Technical). Ken studied hard, and when he achieved better results, he asked his teacher if he could switch to a higher stream. However, he was rejected twice. This kind of failure to achieve his goals was a constant pattern back in his early school years.

“I can clearly remember the feeling of shame when some of my peers were mocking me for my failures.

“The rejections affected me in many ways, especially psychologically. It felt like no matter how hard I tried, I would end up back at square one.

“As a result, I developed a fear and self-doubting within me and didn’t think I had the ability to pursue a higher education,” Ken shared. “But I didn’t let myself get defeated. I still sought help from my teachers to try to get back on my feet.”

Sadly, his hard work did not pay off at that time, as his application to a polytechnic (college) via direct admissions was rejected, despite going the extra mile.

Amid all the negative things that happened, there was some light in the darkness for Ken —  adventure and sports.  “I found my joy in sports. I would play basketball, volleyball, and do other activities like hiking, cycling, and diving. Sports was an escape for me,” he said.

Though he didn’t get to go to the college he wanted, Ken didn’t stop trying. After he graduated, he naturally leaned into a job path that was related to sports. He worked his first job at a fitness club, but his job scope involved inviting new members to join. 

After gaining some experience at the job, he spoke to his manager about the idea of furthering his education in sports to widen his career options. 

Ken was nervous. It was possible he might be rejected again. Thankfully, his manager Aaron Lee supported him wholeheartedly, and Ken was able to take up a part-time Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences with PSB Academy.

He chose that particular diploma because of his passion and curiosity about sports — he wanted to understand how humans work, the physiology of it all. He hoped that by deepening his understanding of muscle structure, motor development, motor skills, and more, he might be able to work in sports.

Now to face reality, the truth was that Ken wasn’t a fast learner, which made studies difficult, as usual. But the teachers at his academy were genuinely inspiring and were invested in helping their students learn. 

“There were several lecturers who would spend extra time after lecture to give me tuition, to make sure I understood the lessons. I am so grateful, because that was one of the things that helped me advance into a degree,” said Ken. 

This experience inspired him and helped Ken discover that he loved teaching too. He then took the leap to take on a job as a children’s sports coach at Little Skoolz & De Kinder Club, where he helped children learn more about sports and develop their physical and mental fitness.

“Then, I chose to take the next step and pursue the Bachelor of Science Sport and Exercise Science with Edinburgh Napier University at PSB Academy. I was really interested to learn about the mental health of children, why children drop out of sports, what causes them to burn out, and more.

“Mental health and wellbeing are often neglected in sports. But these factors are what help motivate children and push their limits. It’s not just about sports itself, but about building children up by giving them opportunities to experience early success.”

Ken teaches his students Little Skoolz & De Kinder Club

And as for Ken’s own growth and potential, the step he took to take his diploma and degree unlocked the opportunity for him to gain the role as the Lead Coach at his workplace.

Looking back, he is thankful he didn’t give up on pursuing further education. “I want to be a living testimony and inspiration to myself and others, that a Normal Technical student can also graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree,” he said. 

“To those who hailed from the Normal Technical Stream like me, please believe in yourself. Do not doubt yourself because no one is born to fail in anything. 

“To share a quote I love, ‘You are halfway there when you stop doubting and start believing.’”

A personal note from Ken Ng: I would like to express my gratitude to the teachers and mentors who guided me along the way. Thank you for going the extra mile with me. Thank you, Mdm Siti Zubaidah, Mr Clement Lim, Mr Lim Eng Guan, and Ms Mabel Yeo, from Bedok South Secondary School. And thank you, Ms Mariam, Mr Mark, Mr Edger Tham and Ms Ong Kaifen from PSB Academy’s Edinburgh Napier University. I could not have done it without you.




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