When he received a call five years ago asking if he would like to take the helm at NorthLight School, Mr Martin Tan, then principal of Anderson Primary School, did not hesitate.
He said: “I grew up in a lower-income family. All my opportunities growing up came from school.
“As principal, I realised this was my best opportunity to give back, to create the same opportunities I had when I was a student.”
Mr Tan, who took over from NorthLight’s founding principal Chua Yen Ching, added: “Because of my background, I found it easy to relate to the students and some of the challenges they were facing at home and in school.”
More than just teach, his teachers make home visits, take students to the doctors when they are ill, and even provide them with transport and meal allowances.
“The staff always make time for the students, even if it is at night or on a weekend,” Mr Tan said.
During his term, he has received numerous e-mail messages from the public complimenting students for their acts of kindness.
For instance, a pregnant lady was touched when one of them offered his seat on the train even though he appeared visibly exhausted.
“Positive examples such as this show that the students have learnt the values well and are applying them in their daily lives,” said Mr Tan, who also acknowledged the support from the community and the Government to help his students to excel.
He said: “With the right opportunities and environment, they can do well, just like the others.”
However, he hopes more can be done to help students who face various family issues.
“The faster we can do that, the faster the children can focus their energies on their education,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline ‘NorthLight staff pull out all the stops to help their students