Ian Chan overcame the odds with support from his school and family
Ian Chan, seen here with his parents, scored three As and two Bs in the A-level examinations.
By Jared Ng
Having a supportive group of friends and teachers in school was so important for Ian Chan, 20.
In 2013, he lost sight in his left eye due to glaucoma, a disease which causes damage to the optic nerve.
The former Catholic Junior College (CJC) student had already lost sight in his right eye when he was eight years old due to a separate medical condition.
Because of this, he was dependent on his friends for simple tasks such as walking around his college and buying food.
“They helped to lead me around school and also asked me along whenever they had plans to hang out,” said Ian.
“It wasn’t always easy for them and so I was, and am, really grateful,” he added.
Ian went on to score As for H1 Mathematics, H2 Literature and H2 Economics, and Bs for H1 General Paper and H2 English Language and Linguistics in the A-level examinations last year.
A-level subjects are divided into three tiers – H1, H2 and H3 – with the scope of content increasing from H1 to H3.
Ian said that teachers from CJC spent time tutoring him one-to-one. This included during regular class hours, where a teacher would assist him while the class was taught by another teacher.
A large portion of Ian’s education in CJC was also aided by the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) software programme.
The JAWS programme provided Ian with an audio translation of information and text that appeared on a laptop screen.
His answers, typed out on the laptop, would also be audio translated for him. This laptop was used by Ian in school and at home for his revision.
Ian is believed to be the first visually-impaired student in Singapore to take English Language and Linguistics for the A-level exams.
Through Ian’s parents, Shaun and Evelyn, and CJC’s collaboration with the Singapore Examination and Assessment Board, arrangements were made to cater to Ian’s needs.
These included allowing Ian to use a laptop with the JAWS software programme for all his exam papers except Mathematics, where he was assigned a scribe and reader.
Ian also received double the time duration for all his exams.
Nevertheless, life in CJC was tough.
The former St Joseph’s Institution student said his first year in CJC, which he repeated, was “difficult and depressing because it was in a new environment, a new school culture and a whole new level of education.”
There were also days when he felt lonely because he could not participate in many of the physical and outdoor activities which his friends could.
Family support was another important motivation factor during such times, recalled Ian, a parishioner of the Church of the Holy Spirit.
His parents and two younger siblings often looked out for him at home and ensured the environment was comfortable for him.
“I had them with me when I was depressed and numb about school life,” he said.
Looking forward, Ian, who is exempted from National Service, said he hopes to pursue Psychology in university.