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What is your background and why should we choose you over a teacher who is MOE-qualified?
I am a RI alumni who’s currently majoring in Computer Science at NUS. While others may think that coming from RI implies that I am naturally “smart” and exams are of no challenge to me, this is certainly not the case. The increase in difficulty from Secondary 2 Math to Secondary 3 A Math was a shock to me, so much so that I “hid” from Math in my upper secondary days by not studying for it. It was till my A Levels that I decided to finally study “properly” and conquer my fear. In the end, I realised that A Math is certainly doable, and this has given me the opportunity to not only empathise with those who struggle with the subject, but also understand how to approach this subject in a manner that will give the greatest chance of success.
While it is certainly true that MOE-qualified teachers have more training in the various teaching methodologies, it can also be said that they are usually sufficiently removed far away from their own learning experiences, their struggles with the subject. In other words, they can only hold constructs of the students’ struggle, but their constructs are not necessarily true. On the other hand, as I am a student myself who still needs to struggle with seemingly vague math concepts, I can understand the student’s perspective and reach out to them in a more effective manner.
Most importantly, I make my own notes and worksheets that are specially catered towards conquering O Level Additional Mathematics examinations. I think this is a very undervalued aspect of the tuition industry. We tend to associate more practice with better grades, but fail to consider the materials that we practise with. I aim to be the provider of the most exam-oriented materials. In other words, for all my materials, my aim is to be laser-focused on selecting questions that will commonly come up for exams.
What is so special and different about your notes when we have so many assessment books/textbooks/notes floating around in the market?
I want to start off by saying that many of those published books that you see in Popular are amazing- they are very comprehensive and serve as a great aid for anyone seeking to self-study the subject. However, their strength is also their greatest weakness. They are incredibly comprehensive, but a quick look through those books confirmed my belief- that they are bloated and provide too much information.
Now, how can any book provide too much information? Shouldn’t it be the more the better? Well if you are studying for up to 9 subjects and are required to take multiple exams for each subject, you will want the MINIMUM ESSENTIAL INFORMATION. This is where my notes come in handy. I aim to give them that one tool that is good enough to solve most problems. This is opposed to the predominant way of giving them multiple tools then giving them a hard time of trying to memorise and learn those tools. This leads to more problems later on as the students have to decide which one to use under exam stress etc.
To clarify, I aim is to have a maximum of three pages for each topic. This is to let the student know that the essentials of A Math are surmountable. Each page will contain tools that can be applied to many types of questions. This differs from many books in the market, whereby a “concise” guide may easily run over 80 pages and is filled with small fonts to cram more information instead of eliminating the unnecessary.
Who is suitable for your teaching methodology?
I will be frank, not everyone is suitable for my teaching and I will rather give up on getting more potential students than pretend that I can help everyone. The fact is that I can’t.
My teaching methodology is centred on finding the most efficient way to compress the materials and present them in a well thought-out progression. Not surprisingly, they are not meant to be a cure-all. They are meant to let your child study in the most efficient and effective manner. However, your child still needs to work hard. I am mainly looking for two types of students- the student who is already working hard but cannot quite figure things out, and the student who is doing well and want that extra edge to get that A.
I believe that my materials can help the former student by presenting the concepts in a clear and concise manner and continually reinforcing them by allowing for a very clear progression from basic questions all the way to exam calibre questions (as my experience with other students highlights that many students get lost once they reach the exam calibre questions). For the latter student, my materials can still help them, but I will focus more on the performance psychology- refining their study schedule to ensure maximum retention and teaching them to plan for themselves in the most effective way. I will share with them my techniques which has allowed me to perform at an elite level academically.
To summarise, I believe that it is only fair that I expect for every hour that the student spends at my class, he/she will spend another hour at home for self-study.
You did not mention anything about class size. Will there be sufficient attention paid to my child?
When each class gets too big, we will open up a new class to reduce the class size. As I am confident that I can spot potential pitfalls of students, I believe that you are not expecting undivided attention from me to your child. Instead, you are worried that your child may not fully understand the material during the lesson.
I’ve taken three steps to mitigate this problem. Firstly, I will constantly ask each student question while we are going through the material so that I can gauge each student’s understanding. Secondly, I will ensure that I am in close enough proximity to each student even when I am standing in the front of the classroom lecturing. This will deter your child from asking me any question due to a sense of isolation. Lastly, I will walk around the classroom while the students are attempting the practice problems so that I can personally check on their progress.
Do you practise personalised learning at your tuition centre?
Personalised training is a buzz word that’s floating around the education sector, much like what “fintech” is in the banking and technology sectors. I certainly believe that there may be some merits to personalised learning, but what happens in many tuition centres are simply misguided and contorted forms of “personalised learning”.
Let’s look at what personalised learning entails. The teacher is responsible for tailoring each session’s materials to the student, and then giving the student attention when necessary. This appears all and well until we take into consideration that the very fact of the matter is that for most personalised learning sessions, each student receives very little attention and help for the subject. This may sound contrary to popular belief, but let’s think about it.
Let’s assume that there exists a class of six students where personalised learning is practised. When you, the parent, pay the tuition fees, you’re not paying for one full session of attention given to your child. Rather, if each session is 90 minutes long and there are six students, you are effectively paying full fees for only one sixth of the time.
In addition, do you really think that the teacher employed can teach all subjects taught in the class competently? It is common practice to group students studying different subjects and levels into one class for personalised learning. How often do we come across a teacher who can teach all subjects competently? Certainly not often, and I am inclined to believe that many places which boast of personalised learning has each teacher teaching at sub-par quality.
Do you really want to pay for “personalised learning” now? Or are you more interested in paying for a teacher who has examined the subject in-depth that he is teaching so that he can prepare the most exam-oriented materials for his students?
You are charging prices that are usually charged by undergraduates who are teaching one to one. Why shouldn’t I just find an undergraduate to teach my child one to one instead?
To start off, I find one to one teaching to be vastly overrated. I do not have statistical data on this, but I believe the following statement paints a rather accurate picture of one to one tuition. The teacher arrives on the first day, briefly chats with the student then watches the student does his/her homework for the remaining time. The following week, the teacher arrives with a random textbook bought from Popular Bookstore and calls it his/her resource. For the rest of most lessons, such a scenario occurs: the student certainly needs time to work on the problems, so the teacher will sit there quietly and prompt the student only when it’s evident the student can make no more progress. This is all and well, but when you consider that 1) the resources used may not be that great after all and 2) half of the fees you paid the tutor is for him/her to sit there and watch your child does the work, you realise that you are at the losing end of the bargain.
Now contrast the above scenario to what happens at my centre. From the very first lesson onwards, I have very clear objective of what I want my students to achieve and what are the potential pitfalls because I’ve interacted with enough students. No time is wasted in dilly dally. Instead, we get straight down to work, going through the various concepts while your child takes down the notes in the worksheet I’ve painstakingly prepared. Then, we move on to gradual progression in difficulty of questions. This allows your child to gain confidence. Moreover, my questions are sourced from top secondary school prelim papers. You can be sure in knowing that my questions are of high quality and your child will develop sufficient rigour in A Math.
I think your fees are expensive! Can’t you lower them?
I can understand the desire to pay less for anything. In calculus, we call this optimisation- we want to pay the lowest cost we can while deriving the maximum benefit. This principle certainly holds true in many of our daily decisions. Take for example buying a washing machine. We may want certain features such as different washing functions and timer options. We try to pay for the product we can get the most value out of at the lowest cost possible. All is well because we are not restricted by time- if the washing machine is undesirable, we do not lose anything. We just get a better washing machine and life continues.
Now contrast this with the education of your child. If your child is studying A Math, I am guessing that he/she is from the IP/Express stream. In other words, he/she only has two years to study A Math (among other subjects) and score well for it. Now, if you paid for the wrong tutor, you can certainly change and get another tutor. However, what cost is this at? Your child does not have unlimited time. Wasting three months for the wrong tutor suggests that your child has three less months to study for O Levels. Worse, if your child learnt the concepts incorrectly, he/she needs to spend even more time relearning the correct concepts. I’m assuming that your child wants to do well for O Levels.
Does your child have enough time to do so by then? As a parent, is this the scenario you want your child to be in?