The Case for late bloomers - From worst in class to principal of design school

12 August 2018
The Sunday Times, Page A12

NAFA alumnus, Mark Phooi

Last month, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung proposed a review of the use of O-level results in university admission of poly graduates as it could exclude late bloomers from entry. Calvin Yang from The Straits Times speaks to four who did poorly at the O levels but excelled later in life. Success after failure, they say, is entirely possible. Below is an excerpt on Mark Phooi, a NAFA graduate:

The last time he stood on his secondary school stage as a student, he was being punished for cheating in an exam, never mind that he still ended up at the bottom of his cohort. A few years ago, Mr Mark Phooi, who went on to become a millionaire, was invited to speak on the stage of his alma mater - formerly Tanglin Technical Secondary School and now known as Tanglin Secondary School - on how failure at a young age does not mean the end of the world. Mr Phooi, 56, took his ‘O’ levels four times – three as a private candidate. But he failed to get into a polytechnic like his peers. He took on factory jobs and worked as a swimming coach, but the ambition to get into a polytechnic prompted him to retake the national exam as a private candidate three more times.

The affable Mr Phooi, the fourth of five children, whose parents worked as labourers, eventually graduated with a diploma in applied arts from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in his late 20s, and later earned a master’s degree in design from the University of New South Wales in Australia. This “worst student” later went on to be the founder - and principal - of private design school First Media Design School. Mark started design agency Lancer Design at age 27 and made his first million five years later. Instead of placing minimum academic requirements, his school only requires prospective students to have 10 years of basic education and a good command of English. Shortlisted candidates undergo an interview and sit a test to assess if they have a creative spark.

View the full article here.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.