PETALING JAYA: In May, Ong Lynn Syn sat for four Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) papers – biology, business studies, Malay, and Mandarin.
In October, she will be sitting for chemistry, accounting, mathematics, and English, while May next year will see her sitting for additional mathematics and physics.
If this isn’t impressive enough, you might be surprised to learn that Lynn Syn is only 11 years old. The IGCSE, a certification for the end of secondary school, is designed as a two-year course for candidates aged 14-16.
To add to her wow factor, Lynn Syn – who lives with her family in Batu Pahat, Johor – is also homeschooled. So, how has she managed to reach this level of accomplishment?
The precocious child told FMT Lifestyle in an online interview that it all boils down to discipline in sticking to her daily timetable, which is “very important”.
This schedule, designed by her mother, includes ample time for rest and extracurricular activities such as ballet and piano, which Lynn Syn loves. She is even learning golf!
Lynn Syn had only been four when her mum, Venice Lee, realised she was a fast learner. Lee had enrolled her daughter in an international school where, despite being placed in a class with students aged five and six, she did well.
Lee also signed Lynn Syn up at age six for activities such as ballet, Latin dance, piano, the erhu (a Chinese stringed instrument), swimming, robotics, mental arithmetic, and taekwondo.
This might sound like a lot, but Lee believes her children should be given the opportunity to identify and do the things they love. She and her husband, Ivan Ong, also have a nine-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter.
Nevertheless, Lee told FMT Lifestyle she eventually realised Lynn Syn’s schedule was becoming very packed. “I asked her, activities versus school, which do you prefer? She said activities. So I made the decision to take her out of school.”
With Lynn Syn only being six at the time, many people questioned her decision. But after a month, Lee knew she’d made the right choice when she saw her begin to flourish.
‘Independent, hardworking’ homeschooler
While some people may think homeschooling involves parents teaching their own children, Lee clarified that Lynn Syn studies with online tutors for all subjects except her favourite, mathematics.
According to Lee, her daughter learns maths on her own using a syllabus downloaded from the internet. If she faces difficulties, she proactively searches for other resources online.
Indeed, Lee describes Lynn Syn as “independent” and “hardworking”, adding that she only occasionally checks to ensure her daughter has no outstanding homework.
Lynn Syn’s aptitude for numbers was proven when she sat for the Cambridge Lower Secondary Checkpoint tests last October. Marked by Cambridge International, these tests assess learners at the end of their lower-secondary programme before moving on to the IGCSE.
Her daughter, Lee shared proudly, scored full marks for mathematics. Thereafter, Lynn Syn took six months to prepare for the IGCSE in May.
Over the years, she has participated and won awards in various local and international competitions, including for mental arithmetic, swimming, erhu, piano, ballet, and Latin dance. One particular highlight is her gold award in the Hong Kong International Mathematical Olympiad in 2020.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Lynn Syn will also be sitting for her Grade 8 piano exam, the highest grade offered by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) examination board, next month.
She also recently sat for her Grade 4 ballet exam with the Royal Academy of Dance and will be moving on to the next grade!
Being homeschooled, FMT Lifestyle asked Lynn Syn if she ever felt lonely without the companionship of classmates in school.
“I have friends in my ballet classes, including my best friend,” she shared – and, like any young person, she enjoys spending time with them.
So, what does the future hold for this high achiever? After completing her IGCSE, she plans to continue with A-levels and someday enrol in a university in Singapore.
Her ambition is to either be an investor, like her father, or pursue a career in biotechnology as biology is her second-favourite subject.
As for her IGCSE results, she hopes to get at least a B for all her subjects, if not A*, the highest grade.
And among the many things she has to be grateful for is that her parents have never, ever pressured her. “They always tell me we can celebrate even when the results are not out yet,” Lynn Syn concluded, “as it is all about my effort, not my result.”