The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, January 04, 2010

HELP University College, KL, Malaysia.

It is time to announce it. Ainan has joined HELP University College, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We spent the last three years trying to secure the right educational opportunities for Ainan, in Singapore. However, it wasn't easy. The "system" was very difficult to work with. It took us, for instance, about 22 months to secure consistent practical Chemistry classes for him, in Singapore, at a Polytechnic there, (which we much appreciate and which helped, at the time. Sadly, though, it wasn't really enough.). That is almost two years completely wasted...two years of frustration, of being stalled, of being thwarted. It is not as if we didn't try to get what he needed in Singapore. We did. However, the system was most modest in its response. The GEP (Gifted Education Programme) arranged for a handful of practical Chemistry classes for him - which we were very grateful for, at the time - but it never led anywhere. There was no ongoing practical Chemistry provision made available for him. We were, at the time, given two excuses for this: "There are no resources available" and "If we do it for him, they will all want it."

The funny thing is, it was never clear who the "they" were, since, in Singapore's history, to date, there has only been one child like Ainan. Presumably, providing Ainan with lab access would suddenly have turned the whole nation into science prodigies by a kind of infective osmosis. How ridiculous.

Anyway, we tried everything we could in Singapore. We even asked to homeschool him, on many occasions, but permission was never granted. (We were always fobbed off with "We will revert to you shortly"...and then we would never hear from them - the Compulsory Education Unit - again.). After three years of it, we quietly gave up and started looking elsewhere for an education for Ainan.

Remarkably, Malaysia proved very responsive - and, through the wise advice of Zuhairah Ali, President of the National Association of Gifted Children of Malaysia - Ainan secured places at University Colleges in Malaysia, in a very short time...not much more than a week.

Of all the places on offer, we chose HELP University College, in Kuala Lumpur. It offered the best overall support of Ainan.

At HELP, Ainan will be taking an American Degree Programme - starting immediately. He will take Computer Science options, but also keep up his Chemistry. He will, in addition, be broadening his science foundation by adding A levels in Physics and Maths to his tally, simultaneously. He already has AS Level Chemistry, O level Chemistry and O level Physics, as well as having taught himself some degree of programming skills.

Our thanks to HELP for offering him a place and being so supportive - and to Zuhairah Ali for her speed, efficiency and immense resourcefulness. Thank you.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals. If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at:

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:01 PM 


Blogger Demel said...


This begs the question though. Will you be moving over to stay in KL as well?

11:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks, Demel, for your congratulations.

Yes. We shall be staying in KL. It would not be sensible for Ainan to be in a strange country on his own...nor would it be good parenting.

We are enjoying ourselves here, so far...though there are many differences, some good, some not so good compared to Singapore. (Good: Malaysia is more flexible than Singapore; bad: Malaysia doesn't know what public transport much room for improvement on that score.)

Happy New Year, there, in Singapore.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Good to hear that Ainan has an opportunity to pursue his interests.

And what, if I may ask, are your plans for your younger sons? Are they allowed to enroll in the local educational system?


1:13 AM  
Anonymous jen said...

Hi Valentine,

it's me again, Jen. congrats! I'm so happy on that :)

Since it's kind of easy to deal such things in Malaysia..this is a suggestion that come from of my heart. Since Ainan is so good in chemistry why don't you apply for ainan in UTM skudai for the petroleum engineering course.

I was undergrad in UTM and I know how splendid their performances. I have many friends who came from that course.

For your info Petronas is giving the chance to all the Petroleum Engine students (although they have their own university) in UTM to work with them. Many of my friends work there.

Since Ainan is extremely clever in chemistry who knows he could invent some new chemistry molecule structure for the oil..well maybe to invent new 1st outstanding oil formula that could make the engine works at the maximum level..hehe

this is my only idea


8:48 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

That's wonderful news! Congratulations!

I hope that Ainan will be happy at HELP University College, and I hope you and your family will be happy in Malaysia.

Do you plan to return to Singapore one day?

Kind regards,

7:13 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Thank you for your congratulations. Ainan is very happy at HELP.

Regarding a return to Singapore: we gave Singapore a decade to show its nature...but it failed to provide even the basics of what Ainan needed. It is shameful really. However, the media there are VERY good at lying about what the MOE did and provided. That is another reason we are staying away...we can't stand the lies they tell to deceive the population that Singapore is doing the right thing. They are not.

Thank you

Kind regards


P.S: For us to return, the lies would have to stop - and Singapore would have to properly support Ainan's growth. Neither of these is likely to happen.

11:20 AM  
Blogger The Crunch Time Blogger said...


Indeed, why bother to stress one's childhood and hider any capable talents? Happier childhood means better performance. You know, only 1% from knowledge we learn from education are only applicable to our career, that bring us doubting the productivity of the education system, only suffice to produce the herd mentality. Have you heard of talented people doing similar things as the rest of the population? NO. The future of work is going to be very COMPETITIVE with global outsourcing in any industry you can name it, no one is going to pay you for having a degree. Despite admitting the flaw of the rigid system, Singapore import foreign talents to cover it's domestic brain drain problem. By the way, it's not what you know that matters in life in this century, it's WHO you know and what you DO that matters! The new paper qualification is called UNIQUE TALENTS. So Evolve NOW or Extinct!

2:56 PM  
Blogger EbTech said...

That's fantastic news, congratulations! Is the degree in chemistry or general science? It appears Ainan will be quite happy there. I hope leaving your home country for the second time was not too unsettling; what an adventure it must be!

By neglecting their most gifted, Singapore is sadly losing many of its brightest people. This may surprise you, but Ainan might be one of the most well-supported prodigies in history. Your efforts have finally payed off! The sky is the limit now. On second thought, why must there be a limit at all? :D

Good luck to all of you!

3:57 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Thanks for your well wishes EbTech.

Yes. Ainan is happy there. He is going to be doing many different courses, not just Chemistry: I want him to be prepared for many eventualities. The focus will be on science, though.

What do you mean best supported prodigy? Please explain with examples.

I hope you are well.

Best wishes

4:55 PM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

How shameful, ironic and embarrassing it is, really.

Singapore is unable to provide for one (or any) of its most prodigious children, the kind that most parents would love to have, and the kind that Singapore would be proud of since the Singapore govt claims our only resource are its people. It seems that they care more about following their rules and regulations, and they cannot be bothered to do anything when they encounter exceptions like this.

And yet, Singapore prides itself in being an "education hub", and claims its education system to be "No. 1 in the world", when it is clearly not, as you've shown us in detail what Ainan has gone through. Besides, the education system stifles our desire to learn and makes us competitive because of heavy emphasis on examination grades. Even then, Ainan did pass O level Chemistry at such a young age, and nothing was done on the education system's part to allow him to develop to his full potential. Even a Malaysian University is more willing to accept a Singaporean child prodigy than a Singaporean one. Shame on us!

Thanks for showing us the true nature of Singapore. You have also written other issues on Singapore which I'd totally agree with.

If I have the chance, I'd like to emigrate one day unless Singapore improves. And by "improve", I don't mean the standard of our education, or anything the government cares about right now. I mean in more intangible areas like making it a more humane place and care less about their rules and regulations, having people who are kind and stop being so competitive, to name a few, and that wouldn't be anytime soon.

I'm tired of mugging to "compete" with my peers, which in the end will be forgotten once examinations are over. I don't even want to compete! There's just too much of it. I want to learn many different skills, and make contributions to whoever that needs my expertise, that's where true satisfaction comes from, and not from beating your peers with better grades! Obviously, grades are what the Singapore education system mostly care about, so people here tend to be competitive, self-centred and not helpful. No way I would allow my children (if I'm going to have any) to go through such an education.

Best wishes and good luck to the Cawleys in KL, and Ainan in HELP University. I hope Ainan will find what he needs there.

Thank you Mr. Cawley, I love your blog. Please keep writing!


12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im glad you have finally ffound your son the facilities he wanted

btw here is another brihgt young boy who is going to study maths at Cambridge!!!

and he had got an A* at a level when he was only 6 years old!!
quite like your son
who knows one day they may join forces and form an ultimate science team!!! lol

6:40 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Tearsunderstars, what a beautiful nom de plume!

Yes, you are right. Singapore is so competitive that it has lost all sight of what education means. To them, it is nothing more than a must win competition. They have forgotten that they are supposed to be growing as HUMAN BEINGS. Nope...nothing human about the system there.

I know how you feel. In Singapore, one doesn't feel allowed to breathe, or to become. One also doesn't feel valued as a human is simply an economic production unit. How awfully shallow of them to think so.

I wish you well on your plans to emigrate. Malaysia is a LOVELY place to live: the countryside is beautiful (and there is PLENTY of green...); the shops are better than Singapore's; the people are friendlier...the only downside is that public transportation is rudimentary, but that is a minor complaint compared to the benefits of the rest. They are also much more flexible and less rule bound than Singapore. That is refreshing.

I wish you well.

Kind regards

7:39 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


It is sad for Singapore that they did not provide for Ainan. He will shine brightly in the years to come...but his light will not be case on Singapore, but rather, it will show what Singapore could have had. It is not our fault...we tried very hard with them, but could only give up in the end.

Best wishes

7:40 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Arran Fernandez.

He is very good at maths. However, I think from the info in the story he was 8 years old when he received the grade mentioned. Also, he did well at 5 to get a D in the GCSE.

I wish him well at Cambridge, though I must say I didn't find it a supportive place - I think HELP University College is much more supportive of my son, than Cambridge would ever be. However, it does have "branding"...

Thanks for the tip and for the well wishes re. Ainan.

Kind regards

7:46 AM  
Blogger EbTech said...

Well quite simply put, Singapore is far from being the only place to neglect its gifted youth (as you know). This has happened throughout the world and throughout time. Even the gifted parents themselves often do not know how to raise such a child, especially if it is their first time. It is a difficult task for which little help is available.

Yet it seems you learned everything you needed from your own childhood experience. You kept Ainan away from unfriendly or restrictive environments and gave him an enriched environment with the freedom to pursue his interests, without pushing him too hard in any particular direction. Your children even appear to have that elusive work/play balance. Ainan received help in the end because you sought it with more determination, patience and caring than most people have to spare.

Mr. Cawley, I think it is clear from your blogs posts that you can safely add "parenting prodigy" to your list of talents! Therefore I must really thank you again for putting it out on the web; even if your blog does not transform society, at least the future parents themselves can learn!

Re. degree choice: at first I wondered why Ainan is not focusing on his favourite subject. But then I realized that since he is still a young child with broad interests, his interests could change a great deal with time. Even within chemistry there is a vast realm of possibilities, so getting a mixed foundation makes sense for now. Science is about understanding the universe; thus, he will gain deeper insights if he sees how everything connects. All scientists could potentially benefit from such a broad foundation. However, time is a practical limitation which Ainan is partially immune to. ;)

2:01 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, you are right EbTech. The thinking is that breadth is a defense against being trapped in one area, should his focus shift over time. As you note, time is not so much an issue with Ainan since he learns faster than others and so is more efficient in its use. He has time to acquire four or five degrees in the time between now and when someone might normally graduate with their first - perhaps more if he wishes.

Yes. Play is an important element in his life...I would say, in fact, that he plays far more than he works. So it is balanced in the direction of FUN! Like I said, he learns fast, so this is possible.

Yes, my own childhood showed me the way. I learned by OTHER people's mistakes...and the failings of my own youthful environment. I have been striving to spare him from what I was not spared from. So far, I am creating a more pleasant environment than the one I a rather considerable measure. So, I am happy about it.

Thank you for your kind words. I suppose I am just more determined than most people...the more something pushes me, such as the "system", the more I push back. Eventually, this means that I win through, because no-one is more determined than I am. Thus, it has proven with my son's educational provision.

Thanks for your comments.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Ainan a Singaporean?

Will he be force to come back to do his NS sometime in the future?

11:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ainan was born Singaporean, so NS is an issue. We will see what can be done about it.

Kind regards

1:11 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

We are still seeking schools for our younger sons. It is an issue, since all the schools we have so far contacted are full. There are a lot of kids in Malaysia!

Thanks for asking.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Thanks for your congrats and your suggestion.

We keep an open mind on all avenues for Ainan and our other sons.

3:07 PM  

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