What are some of the biggest problems/challenges that students in Singapore face today?
The curriculum is very packed. As there are quite a number of disruptions to the normal curriculum time due to a number of reasons, many teachers need to either rush the syllabus or they have to arrange extra classes to make up for the lost lessons. As such, students do not have time to understand the concepts and more often than not, they have to let go of the lingering doubts and try to focus on the next coming topic. Some disruptions are inevitable, like public and school holidays. However, some other disruptions can be minimised, like common test periods. In that one week of common test, students are not doing actual learning and in addition, schools usually have to further allocate another few days for teachers to mark the papers. As a result, students lose out close to three weeks that could be put to better use for learning. Personally, I think that the semestral exams are good enough.
How is the education scene different between now and 5 or 10 years ago?
The level is definitely higher although some topics have been cut from syllabi for most subjects and levels. More creativity is required as questions are getting more unconventional. However, I feel that students are not trained to do such questions in school. In fact, I have come across students who can do ten year series very well but when it comes to unconventional questions, they will be stumped. So the level of training has not really been on par with the questions set.
Do you think private tuition is effective? How so?
Private tuition is ONLY effective only when students are willing to work with the tutor. When the student is unwilling to go for tuition, or when he (she) hates the particular subject, there will be little progress no matter how good the tutor is. Of course, a good tutor should be able to motivate the student to work towards a better grade and change the student’s view of the subject.
How do you usually prepare for a tuition class?
The lesson always starts with solving questions or clearing doubts from school, so that the student can further reinforce what has been taught recently. Then we will discuss and go through the homework that I assigned the week before. Finally we will prepare the next topic in advance.
Tell us more about some of the more memorable students you’ve had.
I had a student who was in a rebellious state. He was so engrossed in gaming that he often chose to skip lessons (both school and tuition) to play games. In fact it was so bad that the principal personally went over to his house to confiscate the CPU. Even his mum, who was a teacher could not do anything as the son was stronger and bigger in size. His father was a sailor and so was not at home most of the time. When I took the assignment, it was his final year and he was going to take the “O’ Levels. I tried to relate to him and learnt about his interests and likes in order to get his attention back to studies. The effect was not that good as there was too little time for exam. He did badly and had to retake the following year. It was then that he realised how much time he had wasted. Since then, he cooperated with me willingly and managed to score rather well to go to a course in polytechnic. He found that it was more satisfying to work hard for good results than playing games and has not looked back since.
What are some practical advice that you can give parents in preparing their children for learning/exams?
Stay focused in whatever topic that you are studying now and DON’T think about anything else. In this way, you need less time and can accomplish more. Eat well and sleep well so that your body can meet the stress during your exams. Most important of all, parent should not be too demanding to expect their children to exceed their own capabilities and scold them for being unable to meet demands. Instead, just support and encourage them to let them feel relaxed. In this way, they will do much better.