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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK


The young undergraduates

Sum children: Iskander and Noraisha Yusof

A 12-year-old boy and his 16-year-old sister have arrived at the University of Warwick to study degrees in mathematics.

Iskander and Noraisha Yusof are among the UK's youngest ever undergraduates.

Accompanied by their father Farooq, they met lecturers and tutors and said they were looking forward to student life.

[ image: Maths tutor Alan Newell says that the brother and sister have done
Maths tutor Alan Newell says that the brother and sister have done "extraordinarily well"
Maths tutor Alan Newell emphasised that no concessions had been made on admitting the brother and sister because of their young age.

"We've had the best entry class that we've ever had. The standards are very high and Iskander and Noraisha both did extraordinarily well."

Iskander received a grade A in maths A level when he was 10, and a B in further maths a year later. He also gained grade 1 in a special paper set by the University of Warwick.

He is the same age as Ruth Lawrence was when she accepted a place at Oxford 14 years ago.

"It doesn't really matter and it doesn't bother me," he said.

"When I'm with my friends I talk about other things. I am just looking forward to getting on with the course."

Noraisha, who hopes to go on to do research in mathematical biology, said she had chosen Warwick because it was one of the top three centres for mathematics in the country.

"I don't think it is a problem coming to university this young," she said. "I have already done my A levels, what else could I do?"

Noraisha gained grade As at A level in maths and further maths before she was 15.

Runs in the family

Their siblings are also high achievers. Sister Sufiah, 14, is just beginning her second year at Oxford University and their four-year-old sister Zuleika is expected to sit her maths A level by the age of six.

Maths researcher Farooq, 40, and his scientist wife Halimahton, 41, gave up their careers to educate the children at home in Northampton.

For the family of seven, who are all devout Muslims, each day begins with prayers, followed by exercise to focus the mind and body.

All five Yusof children are also talented tennis players. The eldest, Isaac, 17, was number four in the UK for his age, while Noraisha won the Northamptonshire women's title at the age of 12.

Mr Yusof describes his children as self-motivated, mature youngsters, driven by the desire to succeed and compete with one another.

All five were talking before the age of one and reading by two, but they are not considered exceptionally gifted by their Malaysian parents.

Mr Yusof believes all children can achieve given the right encouragement, and is currently in negotiations for a book deal recounting his teaching approach.

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