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IP students turning to customised tuition

Tuition centres put students from same school in same class for lessons based on syllabus. -ST
Jane Ng

Tue, Jan 08, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Back to school.

And back to tuition, even for students of the integrated programmes (IP) at the best schools.

Several tuition centres are thriving on students from top schools, offering classes tailored to the different programmes offered at different schools.

The centres group together students from the same school, offering them customised lessons that follow the school syllabus closely.

They include Aspen Learning Centre, set up by a former Raffles Girls' Secondary School teacher, Thinking Space and Neu Learning.

Aspen, offering mathematics, science and economics tuition at between $220 and $280 a month for IP students, opened 10 years ago.

It offered customised IP tuition from 2004 - the same year the programme was launched in selected schools.

Founder Tay May Yin, 39, who taught science at RGS for seven years until 2001, said she saw the potential for customised tuition for IP students as each school would devise its own curriculum.

Her first IP tuition class had only a small group of RGS girls.

As students from other IP schools turned up, she stuck with her plan to keep those from the same schools in the same tuition classes.

Today she has three centres - in Bugis, Parkway Parade and Upper Thomson.

The Bugis centre caters mainly to RGS girls, who are her biggest group of clients - she has more than 20 classes of RGS girls getting help in maths and science.

Each class has about 15 students.

The Parkway Parade centre caters mainly to students from Dunman High, with more than 15 classes in all.

Junior college students from Raffles Institution make up about 10 classes, and they have lessons at Upper Thomson and Bugis. Neu Learning, which offers mathematics and science lessons, started such classes two years ago, while Thinking Space opened last year with history and geography lessons.

Thinking Space founder and tutor Redmund Law, a former IP school teacher, said it helped to group together those from the same school for tuition.

"The difference is not only in content, but also what is expected of the students in terms of skills. This means that some schools might expect students in Secondary 1 to have skills that you would expect most other students in Secondary 2 to have," he said.

He declined to say how many such classes he has but thinks such customised tuition is likely to stay.

MindLab Tuition Centre has also been offering customised tuition for IP students since it opened in 2009.

Its spokesman said it starts a class with a minimum of two students and teachers spend a third of class time clearing doubts that the student might have on their school homework.

Such customisation is the reason students find the lessons useful, said Mrs Selene Tan, 49, a manager whose son graduated from Raffles Institution last year and has a daughter in Sec 3 in Dunman High.

Both attended tuition at Aspen.

"My children asked for tuition and I always make it a point to ask them if it's helpful or relevant to their studies, otherwise it's just a waste of time," she said.

Asked about the large number of RGS girls attending tuition, an RGS spokesman said its students are encouraged to approach teachers if they need help.

There are also weekly consultation and enrichment sessions for students to discuss their academic concerns and receive additional coaching.

Aspen's Ms Tay conceded that some of the top students attending her centres do not really need extra help, but they find that tuition boosts their confidence.

"Some are smart and don't need tuition but they want the tuition because they want confirmation that they are doing it right," she said.

"Sometimes you get held back from your best performance from a lack of confidence. For teenagers, the level of confidence means the difference between an outstanding performance and a moderate one."

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