In a Class of Their Own

Tuesday, 15.11.2016

It’s common for parents to begin their child on a new enrichment programme during the holidays—and tuition is also part of that category. If you’re about to jump on the bandwagon, here’s what you need to know about small group tuition.

The year-end school holidays are here—and although some parents may prefer for this period to be kept free and easy, children benefit more when structure is present in their lives. In fact, the holidays present the opportunity to introduce your kid to a planned and regular activity that will make a positive influence and impact on their lives, even once school reopens.

“Words such as ‘structure’ and ‘rules’ often evoke images of a rigid, inflexible system that might destroy such good things as a child’s creativity, initiative and happiness,” says Dr Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D., “but it doesn’t have to be so.”

A structured learning environment has been found to help children maintain, or improve upon their academic performance as they can continue fully applying themselves to what they’ve been taught. Bearing all this in mind, parents should thus consider reordering their kids’ routine with an alternative structured learning environment during the holidays. If you haven’t done so already, why not strengthen your child’s academic foundation and give him a headstart for the following school year?

Tuition: more help than hindrance 
A Straits Times 2015 poll found that seven in 10 parents sent their children for private tuition. But with new industry players coming on board every year, new cohorts of student intakes, increased competition as well as a growing population of new and permanent residents, it would be a mistake to assume that every family you meet has a junior member receiving tuition.

When engaging tuition for their child, it is important for parents to identify the real motivations and objectives for doing so. This also makes it easier to broach the topic to the child and explain clearly and transparently the reasons for having tuition. Certainly, the road ahead will be smoother when your child embraces tuition with a positive mindset.

“Don’t let your child be bogged down by the myth that if he or she requires private tuition, they must be stupider than the other children in their class,” advises Pin Koon Ee, owner of SMILETutor Tuition Agency, a home tuition provider. “Remember, boosting their confidence is the one thing that is not only important but which you, as a parent, can help participate in as well.”

Observes Pin: “In most cases the child has the capacity to learn, but not the right guidance to fully understand. Proper tuition will bring that understanding in a way that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. When students are struggling to even cope, they will suffer in a multitude of ways. Worse of all, their self-esteem can drop significantly when they do worse than their peers.

“There is a need to strengthen the children’s foundation on subjects such as English and Mathematics from young because as their educational level increases, the problem sums will only get harder,” notes Pin. “Thus, it is important to have a strong foundation.”

Indeed, tuition can be very effective in bridging learning gaps and on furthering knowledge and understanding from what they have already learnt.

Learning centres: more than tuition
While it’s true that home tuition is the more affordable mainstay for many families in Singapore, supplementary classes at an enrichment centre may not be familiar territory to everyone. These days, many centres have upped their value-add with a broader and more holistic programme portfolio that includes specific components of traditional academic subjects (for example, creative writing classes for English, using the abacus for math).

Meanwhile, there are centres that specialise in a singular subject for more intensive learning. Several centres also apply neuroscience concepts that harness areas of the brain for enhanced learning and recall (you may have heard of training processes the likes of the Shichida, Heguru and Kumon methods—all named after their master creators and each priding itself on its unique prowess!). From international brand names to trailblazing local enterprises, each of these centres have developed their own unique pedagogies, teaching materials and curriculum that cater to children of all ages and learning abilities.

With so many learning centres to choose from, and all with glowing testimonials to boot, settling on the one best suited for their child can be a tough decision for many parents.

“Fundamentally, the relationship between a family and a tutoring agency should be a constructive partnership,” advises educational consultant Adam Caller, who is also senior partner and founder of Tutors International LLP, which is based in the UK. “A tutoring agency should be engaged and available throughout to offer advice and support with the student’s well-being clearly in view. One important role of the tutor, therefore, is to put in place the skills of independent learning that will benefit the pupil for a lifetime. After all, with so much to be gained, as little as possible should be left to chance.”

What to expect
Parents may shortlist a few tuition centres first before making their final choice. Some of the more renowned centres hold their own “open houses”, while others may open trial classes to prospective students. For example, The Learning Lab, which offers tuition beginning at the pre-school level, is holding its TLL Experience Day from 13 Nov to 11 Dec. Parents can register their child for a 1-hour Experience Lesson for one primary school level subject and discover more about the centre’s programmes during a concurrent Curriculum Talk.

Unlike home tuition where a private tutor coaches your child at your residence, supplementary lessons at a tuition centre are held at its premises. Some parents still favour a classroom environment for their child to learn; and the classes at tuition centres are usually kept small for an ideal teacher-to-student ratio. However, the limited intake usually translates to a waiting list at the more popular centres. Before acceptance, the child will usually be assessed to determine their individual learning capabilities and identify their strengths and weaknesses; some of the more elite tuition centres may even have their own entrance tests.

Upon commencing classes at a tuition centre, give your child time to adjust and adapt: to the environment, the teachers, fellow students, as well as the new methods that are being taught. The holidays are a good time to begin classes as your child naturally has more free time in the day, which means there is less stress and pressure involved.

Once school reopens, don’t worry that your child must sacrifice his attendance for these supplementary lessons. It is common practice for tuition centres to offer schedules that have taken into account the time that students spend at school. Your child will gradually grow accustomed to the structure of this school-and-tuition centre routine.

Structure needn’t be stifling, but it’ll teach your child the importance of being organised, give him a secure framework to thrive optimally and be a part of his rewards system when tuition becomes a regular event for him to look forward to! However, private tutor Ng Chun Kay has some valuable advice for parents, particularly those who tend to be over-zealous.

“Although tuition can be a tremendous stepping-stone for your child, it should not be overused,” highlights Ng. “What is meant by this, is that today many parents are simply pushing their children too hard, making them take too many courses, and not letting them enjoy their lives. Children are children, and they deserve to have fun too. With a real balance of studies and fun activities, your child can be the well-rounded person they need to be.”

In the instance when children feel overwhelmed, tuition can begin to be counterproductive, and end up defeating its original purpose of helping your child become a better, all-rounded performer. “Children that are forced to study and work all the time, and have no time for themselves, can develop life altering disorders, and instead of a high self-esteem, they can become depressed and do bad in school, since they may fear that they are not perfect enough,” says Ng.

And it’s not just the child who gets affected—parents do too. In 2015, The New Paper reported that some parents were forking out up to $250 an hour, or up to $800 a month, for “homework tutors”. Ironically, the role of these tutors is to complete any outstanding assignments given by the child’s tuition centre when the parents fear the workload is getting too heavy.

So before you sign your child up for “just one more” subject, make it a priority to discuss your intentions with him first before finalising the decision. Fortunately, this being the school holidays, children are likely to be more relaxed and open to learning in a new environment. To get the ball rolling, here are our picks of some tuition centres to give your child a learning boost this holiday—and beyond!

Adam Khoo Learning Centre 
One of the more prominent tuition centres in Singapore that has branched into the region, Adam Khoo Learning Centre (AKLC) aims to enhance every child’s learning ability while helping them unleash their potential. AKLC’s curriculum is built upon its Junior Mastery™ (for K1 and K2 kids) and Mastery™ enrichment programmes that harness brain-based and accelerated learning concepts to help students perform to their best ability. At the primary school level, AKLC’s Science Mastery™ programme incorporates interactive learning processes and the Socratic questioning approach, while its Arrow Transfer Model (ATM)® Maths method uses no more than five steps for more effective problem solving. AKLC has four centres across Singapore, at Novena Square 2, Century Square, West Coast Plaza and Valley Point.

Mindchamps Singapore
“There is no failure, only feedback”: this philosophy, together with its core belief in the development of a Champion Mindset, are the driving forces behind Mindchamps. The latter term is coined by Prof Emeritus Allan Snyder, founder of Sydney-based think tank Centre for the Mind. MindChamps’ collaboration with Prof Snyder has led to the development of cutting-edge proprietary, age-appropriate learning strategies and techniques such as the Thinking Cap programme. MindChamps’ techniques are spearheaded with research into educational psychology, neuroscience, brain-mapping and more. Besides fostering effective learning and study skills in its students, MindChamps’ series of Success Programmes also impart soft skills such as emotional resilience and motivation. MindChamps has a solid presence with numerous preschool and reading & writing centres around Singapore.

Stalford Learning Centre / 
Reaching out to all suburbs in the heartland, Stalford Learning Centre has 18 branches island-wide staffed with over 400 tutors. Stalford’s convenient locations make it an accessible option for many young families, who can choose from the centre’s wide range of up-to-date curricula catered to the kindergarten and primary (GEP & mainstream) levels. Pre-schoolers are given a strong academic foundation with preparatory modules that also include mental abacus, phonics, hanyu pinyin. Stalford gives its primary school students an edge with extra-challenging lessons complemented by effective training processes that cover heuristic and problem-solving skills. In addition to Stalford Learning Centre, the brand has two other affiliated education institutes—Stalford Academy and Confucius Mandarin Institute. The latter has a wide range of intensive Chinese tuition programmes that include pre-school and primary level classes held at 11 locations. Stalford Academy has extensive preparatory courses for foreign students who are seeking entry into mainstream government schools (primary & secondary) in Singapore. For primary school, the planned school levels are from primary 2-5.

Eye Level 
Geared towards grooming and training the next generation of self-directed learners, problem solvers, critical thinkers and lifelong learners. Two of the most popular programmes are Eye Level Math and Eye Level English, where skills and concepts are systematically and sequentially taught to each child. Before enrolling at a centre, every child will undergo a diagnostic test to assess his current aptitude. With the ongoing guidance of Eye Level instructors, each student will work to achieve attainable goals at a pace agreed by the student, parents and instructor. As a result, children take ownership of their progress while taking responsibility for their learning.

The Learning Lab
Despite being a relative newcomer to the local tuition scene, The Learning Lab (TLL) has quickly established itself as a niche leader with bespoke enrichment programmes customised to advance the academic performance of students whose competencies are already above par that of their peers. TLL’s proven track record and highly qualified tutors with stellar academic credentials ensure that its learning cohort is in good hands. The centre offers its own range of specially developed enrichment and learning materials that is aimed at accelerating higher learning. By leveraging TLL’s quality syllabus and results-oriented pedagogies, students advance their knowledge and skillsets while thriving in an interactive and immersive environment. TLL centres even have their own specially curated libraries collectively offering nearly 80,000 titles. Its well-received Experience Day (happening from 13 Nov-11 Dec this year) has scores of interested parents registering in advance for the curriculum talk while kids are given a taste of a typical learning session with an Experience Lesson. TLL’s success in Singapore has recently prompted it to launch Chinese Lab, a new flagship for preschool and primary age groups that is as equally target driven and dynamic as its parent brand.

The Write Connection
More information about TWC’s 2017 enrolment drive and sign-up promotions is available at 
Read. Write. Think. Excel. Founded by an educator-entrepreneur with extensive teaching experience both locally and overseas, The Write Connection, or TWC, offers world-class instruction with the aim of raising each student’s proficiency in reading and writing. Now an award-winning brand with four conveniently-located branches, each TWC centre is staffed by a team of highly-qualified teachers, curriculum specialists and academics. TWC’s educators are passionate about raising the standards of the English language as it is written, spoken, read and comprehended. Students will grow in their appreciation of the language, while becoming adept in thinking and applying what they learn across various contexts. Preschool learners are also accommodated, with P1 Preparatory courses. TWC’s 360-degree cycle of learning is its differentiating factor, providing all-rounded classroom interactions with solutions-oriented feedback that motivates participants to constantly improve their progress and performance.

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