Dux to do service in Singapore

Sun Yi Tao (17) is presented an award by St Kevin’s College principal Paul Olsen. Yi Tao was...
Sun Yi Tao (17) is presented an award by St Kevin’s College principal Paul Olsen. Yi Tao was named St Kevin’s dux. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE
Life after school looks a little different for Sun Yi Tao.

Instead of heading off to university, a job or taking a gap year, the St Kevin’s College dux will return to Singapore to complete two years of compulsory national service.

Born in China, Yi Tao (17), of Oamaru, spent nine years in Singapore before his family moved to New Zealand when he was 11.

However, Singapore’s national policy required all male citizens or second-generation permanent residents to complete uniformed service when they turn 18.

The service was first established in 1967 to build Singapore’s military force and men now completed service for either armed forces, police or civil defence.

As he was under 18, Yi Tao, who was put up a year due to being academically strong, applied to go back to Singapore early in order to return to New Zealand for university.

Yi Tao said he was trying to make the best of the situation.

"The parts that I’m looking forward to are definitely instilling some self-discipline into myself and learning how to build healthy and good habits, such as good fitness."

He would go through a lengthy individual physical proficiency test to reach the level of physical ability needed to be a soldier. Then he would be placed in a different vocation ranging from combat engineering to information technology, he said.

The sooner Yi Tao completed his service, the earlier he could return to New Zealand. The St Kevin’s deputy head boy wanted to go to university in either Canterbury or Auckland to complete a degree in chemical and process engineering.

This year, Yi Tao took a University of Canterbury maths course, and had an average of 98.4%.

"That’s the big one I’m proud of. I did it because I wanted to push myself," he said.

"When I came to New Zealand I was often put into extension maths and all the teachers had a headache trying to look for work for me."

Being named school dux was a nice acknowledgement for his effort in the past year, but it was not his end goal, just a milestone in his journey, he said.

"I’ve honestly loved every second of my time there because the teachers are really supportive ... and are nice people who are genuinely interested in what the kids want to do."


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