He passed chemistry when he was 7

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Only 9, he passes O-level physics exam
He passed chemistry when he was 7

By Tay Shi’an

August 04, 2009 Print Ready Email Article

HE ENTERED the Singapore book of records when he passed his chemistry O-levels at age 7.

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CHILD PRODIGY: Last year, he became the youngest student to study at a polytechnic, taking modules and doing lab work at Singapore Polytechnic. TNP PICTURE: KUA CHEE SIONG

Now 9 years old, Singaporean Ainan Celeste Cawley has passed a second O-level subject, adding physics to his credit list.

He signed up for the exam last October and took it in January this year. The results came out about four months ago.

Most students take the exam at age 16.

It was only recently that he received the certificate in the mail. That was when his parents, Irishman Valentine Cawley, 41, and Singaporean Syahidah Osman Cawley, 31, contacted the media.

Ainan said he was more proud of his chemistry O-level pass. ‘Because it came first,’ he said.

A spokesman for the London Edexcel Board confirmed that Ainan took the exam as a private candidate at the British Council in Singapore in January and scored a C for the subject.

She added that according to records with the British Council, Ainan is the youngest candidate to take the physics exam and pass in the past five years in Singapore.

Mr Cawley, a writer, said he had taught Ainan physics informally at home over several months.

He said: ‘I think it’s a natural progression. He was able to grasp the concepts easily. He also liked the challenge.’

He said it was Ainan who first showed interest in the second science subject.

During a family shopping trip last September, he said Ainan picked out an O-level textbook at a bookshop, which he finished reading in a few days.

The family said they are considering whether to let Ainan take more exams, as they are expensive. Taking the physics O-level had cost about $300, said Mr Cawley.

The family discovered Ainan’s love for sciences when he was 6.

At that time also, he had picked up a chemistry textbook, which he finished reading in one night.

He sat for the O-level chemistry paper in January 2007 and passed with a C, meaning he had a score of between 60 and 70 per cent.

Last year, he became the youngest student to study at a polytechnic, taking modules and doing lab work at Singapore Polytechnic.

He created a perfume for his mum that year for Mother’s Day in the lab there.

He still goes to the polytechnic for weekly classes. His father said he hopes to take four modules next semester.

Mr Cawley said that while Ainan interacts well with his older classmates and has ‘good rapport’ with them, they sometimes forget his age and say things that are appropriate for a 20-year-old, but not a 9-year-old.

For instance, one classmate asked him what happened to his teeth. She did not realise that he still had milk teeth to lose.

Home versus school

Mr Cawley said that when his Singapore Polytechnic timetable clashes with his regular primary school schedule, Ainan doesn’t go to school.

Ainan’s parents prefer to home-school him because Mr Crawley thinks regular school is a waste of time for Ainan and believes he can learn quicker on his own.

When asked if he preferred home or school, Ainan said: ‘I have more fun at home.’

He has two younger brothers, age 6 and 3.

He showed The New Paper one of his favourite computer games – a programme which shows how different materials react with one another when you mix them.

He also taught himself how to write computer scripts last month. He uses these to play pranks.

For example, he created fake icons on his laptop and attached several commands to each one. So if you click on ‘Internet Explorer’, the laptop shuts down. Another fake icon causes the CD drive to pop out.

So what’s next?

Madam Syahidah said Ainan started learning biology a few months ago.

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