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Education, Singapore

Ng Jun Sen, Chai Hung Yin
Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014

Education, Singapore

Wherever it is, place must be conducive to studying

The New Paper | Ng Jun Sen, Chai Hung Yin | Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014

Study Lounge on level 5 of the National Library is dedicated for students to study. It is the only place in the library where users are allowed to eat. It is even equipped with vending machines and recycling bins.

Is studying in a cafe or fast-food joint more productive than at home?

Parents and educators The New Paper on Sunday spoke to had mixed reactions when asked what they thought of this nomadic form of studying.

Some say that it helps certain students, while others would prefer it if the students stayed at home or in school.

Madam Irene Lee, 40, the parent of a 17-year-old teenager, tells TNPS that she was extremely sceptical when her son wanted to meet his friends to study at a cafe.

She says: "I didn't really believe him."

So one day, she tailed and observed him from afar as he carried a bag of textbooks to the nearby McDonald's.

"He actually sat down and started reading. I was quite happy until four of his friends showed up," she says.

"They just chatted and chatted, and didn't do any work after that."

Mr Kamarudin Abu Samah, a security supervisor, also had trust issues with his eldest son, 19, whenever he went to study at Changi Airport with friends.

Says the 47-year-old: "We've given him his own room, books, a computer and Internet. I do feel a bit offended when he says he would rather study outside.

"Who knows what he does? We're not private investigators."

On the other hand, two parents say they are comfortable with allowing their children to study at cafes and restaurants.

Says Madam Seah, 45: "I don't mind as long as my daughter goes somewhere safe with good friends and is free from distractions."

Dr Bervyn Lee, who has a 19-year-old daughter, adds that while she prefers studying at home, he would not mind if she wants to study outside as it is "her choice".

For those who study outside, it is important to be considerate to the business owner or patrons, says the associate dean of students at Singapore Management University.

He is all too familiar with the sight of students occupying seats with their bags while other patrons are waiting for a place.

"While it may be your preferred mode of study, just remember that the world doesn't revolve around you."

Students that TNPS spoke to say distractions at home are the biggest push factor.

Temptations cited include the TV, Internet and paying too many visits to the fridge.

Then there are noisy siblings, nagging grandparents and even tuition.

Only one student, an adult learner in his 50s, says that studying in cafes is for economic reasons - free air-conditioning.

Some students, such as undergraduate Regina Tan, 21, prefer to study at home but for reasons beyond their control, are unable to.

Miss Tan says that her neighbour is renovating and it is impossible to study with the noise.

Some do not think they can be trusted at home.

Undergraduate Tee Hui Yin, 21, says: "I will slack because there's no one to control me. I will do everything except study."

So what makes a good place to study?

Psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre suggests a neutral place where the student does not feel pressurised is conducive.

But it is less about location and more about self-discipline, they say.

Mr Koh says that whether a location works or not, boils down to the self-discipline to follow through with one's study plan.

He cautions that the social aspect of studying in groups can be a double-edged sword.

"Sometimes, such students just want to be seen as good students," he says.

Studying outside of the home can also compensate for what is lacking there.

"Someone else to ask questions to and for others to ask them questions,", says Mr Koh.

Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, stresses that while society has largely "closed one eye" to studying in public places, "students must be conscious of the space that they use".

Mr Koh says it is a sign of changing times where studying at cafes is viewed as fashionable.

"Before, people studied outside because their homes had no lights. Times have changed. Now, they just want food to eat and have money to spend."

Two educators say studying in cafes or restaurants can have a positive effect.

Says former National Institute of Education lecturer, Dr Yeap Ban Har: "You can have the most comfortable room at home, but a nagging parent who never has anything good to say about you will not give you a good study environment."

A physics teacher at a junior college, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, says: "It's a good idea for weaker students to band together with others to study as they can help each other - provided they know they're there to study."

Many schools help by allowing students to use classrooms after school or during study breaks.

"We shouldn't dictate how they want to study. Otherwise, they won't study at all," says Mr Lim.

5 tips for students

Cafe operators and patrons The New Paper on Sunday spoke to are generally okay with students using their premises, provided they observe proper etiquette.

Here are five ways to have good relations with your fellow patrons:

1 Do not "chope" seats with your belongings. Let other patrons use the seats.

2 Avoid lingering during peak hours. You can always come back when it is less busy.

3 Use the space for studying, not for surfing the Net or chatting with friends.

4 Share tables with friends and other students. Do not take up more space than is needed.

5 Respect the shared public space. Be situationally aware and willing to give up your seat without being told to do so.


This article was first published on Nov 2, 2014.
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