When I was still school, I had always wanted to become a civil engineer some day. That was a very long time ago, and I can't remember now why I wanted so much to be a civil engineer. Unfortunately, my A-Level results were not very impressive. I only managed credits for all my science subjects. I had hoped to do well in maths, but it was not meant to be. I did very well in my applied maths, but immediately after the exams, I was horrified to realise that I made a blunder in a calculus question. And true enough, when the results came out, I only managed a B for maths.
Armed with my average results, I applied to pursue civil engineering in numerous local and foreign universities. I was happy that most of them accepted my applications, but I had no financial means to further my studies. So I applied for scholarships from Yayasan Sabah, our State Government as well as other big companies such as Shell. All of them came back with negative replies. I was just one of those many, many applicants in Malaysia who were unfortunately enough to have Chinese surnames, you see. In order to qualify for scholarships in Malaysia, a non-bumi must not only get average results; he must get excellent results.
So while I was thinking of what to do next, I decided to teach maths in a private college on a temporary basis. Well, "temporary" turned out to be 3-and-a-half years in the end. I tried to apply for a scholarship during those years, but always received the same replies.
During the first year teaching in the college, I was filled with excitement. It was a lot of fun imparting knowledge to the students. And I was especially pleased when some of them did very well in the exams. But after a while I realised that I had more or less come to a standstill in my life. And then I also found that there wasn't much motivation to remain in the teaching line. When the students did badly, it's always because the teacher was not good enough. But when they did well, it's because they were hardworking and nothing much to do with the teacher's input.
I therefore decided to call it a day with the teaching career and ventured out to Brunei on something totally new. And the rest is history...
There isn't a lot of pleasant things I can remember about my teaching life. But just a few days ago, a stranger greeted me in the street. He bowed his head a little and, with a big smile, addressed me as Mr Koh. I was taken aback because I hadn't the slightest clue who he was. I've got this weakness in remembering faces, you see. Then he introduced himself as my former student, and I pretended to say something like: "Oh! yes, I remember you now!", when actually I still can't remember at all up to now.
But it's such a pleasant surprise that some people still remember me as their teacher after over 20 years.