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Excellence, Enjoyment & Edna

Arts Valedictorian for Commencement 2001, Edna is content to remain anonymous to the public eye.

And it is in the education arena that she hopes to make the difference.

by mervyn sek,
fernandez charmaine cecilia
& lim kar keat

photos: mervyn sek

She arrives way before time for this Thursday evening interview set at a time any sane person would be rushing off from work. With heavy brows and a frown, Edna Tan has the mien of someone who’s just emerged from a gruelling overnighter. She sweeps into the Starbucks at Raffles City and takes a few quick glances around. She seats herself at our table. We smile warmly and ask if she wants a drink. She gives us an icy look, and mutters, “I’m not a coffee person.”

She leaves the table to get a tall Hot Choco. We wonder if we got off on a wrong foot.

Edna returns so composed and eloquent that we wonder if we are interrogating a clone. She grabs a chocolate donut from the stack at our table, and starts munching. We safely conclude that the ice had significantly been melted by her intake of chocolate. We now realise why she describes herself as “unpredictable, passionate and outspoken”.

Even though she did not get a chance to read history in secondary school, Edna trusted her instincts and pursued History (“It’s not just an interest; it’s my passion!”) at A-levels & at NUS. Indeed, all these paid off when she achieved entrance to the Honours Programme for both Literature and History. 

“Things happen for a reason…
If you don’t know it now,
you will find it someday.”

This Public Service Commission teaching scholar feels that she has done far better at NUS than she did previously in school because the university environment allowed her to focus on her interest. "Interest and passion", Edna vouched, "and not just where the crowd is going, should decide what you do in the varsity."

While she has toyed with the idea of becoming an air stewardess - "What better way to see the world?" she asked - Edna has her two feet well-planted on the ground. She believes that the education should provide the necessary foundation before asking students to “think out of the box”. Hence, it is in education that she sees herself contributing to society and sharing the valuable life lessons she has learned.

A highlight of her undergraduate education was a 15-day community project trip to China. Wanting to discover more about life and herself, Edna helped to build a primary school in a rural Chinese village, installed electric lights and fans, and gave basic English lessons to the village children. The experience changed her world-view. "They are much more appreciative of the things around them, because they have less to begin with... In fact, this trip has enriched and benefited the Singaporean volunteers more than the Chinese villagers in many aspects!"

When asked as to what or whom does she accredits her success to, Edna expressed her heartfelt gratitude to her elder brother, who pushed her in her studies when they were young, much to her detest back then. She also credits support from family and close friends for her sterling academic performance.

Philosophical about life, Edna shared with us an important principle which she religiously follows, “Things happen for a reason… If you don’t know it now, you will find it someday.” That’s why she would not change anything in the 22 years of her life even if that’s possible. □




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