“The only secrets to achieving your goals are ample preparation, hard work and learning from your failures,” an inspirational quote that ideally encapsulates Khoo Yun Meng’s notion towards his outstanding achievements. Since enrolling into Han Chiang High School four years ago, Yun Meng has exhibited outstanding, if not phenomenal performances in countless competitions and contests, each time more astounding than the last. His accomplishments include an Individual Bronze Medal and 2 Silver Team Awards at the International Earth Science Olympiad 2019 (IESO), a Bronze medal at the World Mathematics Olympiad 2016 (WMO), National Award at the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition 2020 (IAAC), Top in Malaysia for the Chen Jingrun Cup Secondary School Mathematics Competition 2018 and a Bronze medal at Asian Science & Maths Olympiad (ASMO) International 2018, just to name a few.
The main reason Yun Meng participates in innumerable competitions is that they give him invaluable exposure and new experiences which could not be obtained at school. “Some of these competitions were held overseas, so this gives me a chance to traverse Malaysia’s boundaries and enjoy the sights and experience the unique cultures of other countries.” Moreover, he also managed to widen his social network by engaging with people from all around the world who share the same interests as him, in turn widening his horizons as he conversed and exchanged different ideas with them.
Yun Meng shared that before stepping into any competition venues, he would make sure that he has made a sufficient amount of preparation so that he will not have any regrets, even if he did not do well. “Once I have decided to participate in something, I would be fully committed to doing my utmost best.” For subjects that he had never learnt before such as Geology and Astronomy/Astrophysics, he had to start from scratch and read the relevant materials to grasp and understand the subject matter. On the other hand, for subjects like Mathematics which are taught in school, his preparation process mainly consisted of looking through past year papers to get a sense of the style of the questions. Yun Meng believed that in an effort to learn materials beyond the school syllabus for competitions, it has made understanding easier when teachers at school teach similar topics.
“I believe that understanding the concept is the way to learn.” Adhering to this philosophy of his, Yun Meng has not only strived to impressive heights in terms of competitive activities but also managed to attain remarkable academic results at school. He believes that understanding the subject matter instead of aimless memorising will evoke students’ interests and spur them to learn more proactively. Besides that, Yun Meng also shared that in order to achieve efficient absorption of knowledge, students should try to link the new things they have just learned with the knowledge that had already been in their minds so that they can envision the image more acutely.
When asked about how he juggles between hectic school work, competitions and extra-curricular activities, Yun Meng pointed out that it all comes down to being disciplined and managing his time wisely. He also mentioned that he normally tries to choose competitions that do not clash with any major events so that he does not get too stressed out. However, he does not think that it is humanly possible to stay constantly motivated without burning out. Thus, whenever he hits a blank wall, he will take his mind off things for a while by gaming.
Being so active in competitions, it is no wonder that there are instances where mistakes were made and expectations were not met. When faced with these occurrences, Yun Meng would handle them based on his belief, which is to “deal with it and move on”. He would analyse where he went wrong so that he will hopefully not repeat the same mistakes.
He voiced that careless mistakes are unavoidable, so he just tries his best to minimise them as much as possible.
With the IGCSE examinations right around the corner, Yun Meng claimed that he will have to be more selective in the competitions he is taking part in this year. He believes that though examinations are important as they are checkpoints in the academic journey, other forms of learning to complement the formal education process are also crucial, so he will not be bailing out of competitions entirely. “I will be narrowing it to only a few of my favourites as I also want to do well in IGCSE and make my parents proud.” After graduating from high school, Yun Meng plans to enrol in an A-level programme.
Lastly, he is most grateful to his parents, who have always been there for him through thick and thin. He is also thankful to the school and teachers for their support and encouragement. He would also like to thank the Dean of Studies, Mr Lim Seong Gim, who has been very helpful throughout his time at Han Chiang High School.
With graduation approaching ever so quickly, Khoo Yun Meng conveyed that it is with a heavy heart that he leaves the school where he has spent so many wonderful years as he embarks on the next phase of his life.
“I will forever cherish my memories here.”