As soon as your child grows up, it is natural for you to worry about about the ways in which you can help your child study O-level subjects like chemistry, economics, physics and so on.
Luckily, with innumerable tuition centres in Singapore, there's always a choice to get your child access to a tutor.
But are tuition classes really a necessity for students?
Is there such a thing as too much tuition? How can you determine when your child is going to need extra help from a tutor?
To answer all our questions, Jerald Lie, who is the founder of Achievers Dream (AD) a chemistry specialised school, spoke with theAsianparent on the importance of tuition and how parents can better support their kids to study, specifically for chemistry.
How a tuition centre can help students study for chemistry
While it was the thought of taking charge of his life that motivated him to start teaching, seeing first-hand the impact it had made him love teaching.
"I feel inspired when I can see that my best efforts in teaching would result in my student's appreciation of their studies and improvement in their grades. Today, I have students who have become doctors, engineers, teachers and many other professions!" Jerald shares.
This sense of fulfilment keeps Jerald going as he continues to teach two classes at Achievers Dream.
He says, "Since I understood the struggles of someone who failed in chemistry before, I have made it my mission to bring out the best in chemistry students."
While Jerald does feel blessed to help teenagers through his tuition centre, he believes that tuition is not exactly a necessity for every subject.
He says, "Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once warned (of this) at a youth dialogue years ago, saying that 'We are doing too much tuition in Singapore.' But if you are having a hard time understanding the lessons, then you'll need a tutor to help you."
For parents who want to know how to help their kids study for chemistry, Jerald says that it is a subject that "heavily relies on the foundation built in the earlier part of the school year".
So if your child cannot grasp the basics of chemistry, they might find it challenging to move forward to the later chapters. Jerald explains that this is because "chemistry topics are closely interlinked to one another".
When does tuition become a necessity?
Since every parent wants the best for their child, Jerald recognises that most of them are willing to "spend either time, money or both to ensure that their child is not lagging behind in terms of grades".
It also helps that they have a unique insight into their own child's capabilities and limitations.
He also acknowledges that teachers take care of a lot of students while also handling other responsibilities in school. Therefore, we cannot expect them to repeat the same content covered for students who are unable to catch up in class.
This is where the need for tuition arises to "fill this gap", as per Lie.
"Tuition centres have the time and resources to focus on helping students, which school teachers may not have due to their overwhelming workload," he shares.
He adds, "For example, we film video solutions solving ten-year series questions, actual experiments conducted in the chemistry lab & have videographers do post-production work for students."
"But let me be very clear about what Achievers Dream is providing. We are merely supporting and not substituting the formal education system," Jerald makes sure to add.
Is there such a thing as too much tuition?
While Jerald believes tuition classes are an effective way to help students recap topics in school, it could backfire if the child was only forced to take up tuition. He says that this can result in the child feeling stressed from an overload of homework.
"If they have to sacrifice sleep in order to complete their assignments then it would prove to be counter-productive. I believe that tuition works as a tool," says Jerald.
He adds, "If you utilise it wisely, you are able to reap the benefits. However, if you misuse the tool, this could take a toll on your child's morale and joy of learning."
Preparing students for PSLE
With the recent changes to the PSLE scoring system and Primary 1 admission process, theAsianparent also asked Jerald for his thoughts on the changing landscape of education in Singapore.
To which he responds by saying, "I think the changes in the PSLE achievement levels scoring system and the Primary 1 admission process are shifting in the right direction."
"Firstly, I can see the government made this decision to lessen the stress and competition among students by moving away from an overemphasis on academic results and focusing instead on attaining knowledge. This shift allows our students to embrace the joys of learning at a young age," says Jerald.
He continues to share, "Secondly, I find that it reflects how well students have done relative to the learning objectives of the curriculum. This is much better compared to the old PSLE scoring system, where students were compared to their peers in terms of performance."
"I do favour the new shift that has placed greater emphasis on a more skills-based approach in all four of the PSLE examinable subjects," says Jerald. "I remember in the past, we tend to memorise and regurgitate facts without comprehending the concept in question."
He adds, "However, this transformation of the PSLE will focus more on the student's performance and emphasise their growth, rather than how well they have done compared to their peers. At least this will spare the poor student the pain of being last in class like I did."
Advice for acing the PSLE and Primary 1 admission process
"My advice for acing the PSLE admission process would be that as parents, they should let their child learn a little ahead of the syllabus during the holidays. By doing so, we are allowing them to learn in a stress-free environment & giving them more time to learn a topic," Jerald tells theAsianparent.
He also advises parents to continue monitoring their child's progress in their studies. Although, he says parents must not step in too quickly and immediately send them for tuition.
"Giving them some space for improvement is also an opportunity for them to learn and grow as a human being. Life is not going to be smooth and a bed of roses. Challenges like these allow opportunities for parents to reflect together with their child on how they can do better," shares Jerald.
Tips to study for chemistry and other subjects
When asked how parents can support their children how to study not only for chemistry but overall, Jerald gave theAsianparent the following study tips:
1. Have a positive attitude about education
"One tip that I can share is for parents to demonstrate a positive attitude about education to their children," says Jerald.
He continues to explain, "The age-old adage of show, not tell can provide a teaching lesson for our children to see the value of learning and apply it in our daily lives. Learning and developing positive attitudes towards school helps build confidence in children as lifelong learners."
As Michelle Obama said, "Through my education, I didn't just develop skills, I didn't just develop the ability to learn, but I developed confidence."
2. Determine whether your child needs extra help in their studies
"Another tip for parents to closely assess their child's needs for extra help in their studies," shares the Founder of AD.
As some children may find themselves falling behind in class, they might lose interest in studying overall. With this, Jerald recommends having your child attend tuition classes "to get them back on track". This could help to encourage your child to "boost their learning".
"Bolstering their confidence and interest in knowledge would help them tackle their difficulties," he adds.
3. Remind them it's okay to make mistakes every now and then
"I always see parents who are quick to jump in to solve all of their children's problems. And I feel that it deprives the child to process and develop critical thinking skills when faced with a problem," Jerald says.
His advice for kiasu parents, in particular, would be "to foster a safe environment where children are allowed to fail and make mistakes".
"Love them unconditionally and do not let them feel that the academic results matter more than loving them," Jerald advises parents.
4. Encourage them to talk about school
When asked how both parents and educators can ensure their kids maintain a positive mental balance, Jerald says that it is important to give them one's full attention.
"It would help to practice active listening skills with your little one so they know to come to you if they ever want to talk about something," he says.
"By encouraging them to open up and share stories about school, their teachers and friends, we can find out how they are coping. In turn, this helps foster a strong friendship with the child as a safe space for them to seek advice or help when it is needed," advises Jerald.
5. Give time for other hobbies as well
In addition to this, it could also help to encourage children to try out different activities and hobbies. Jerald shares, "When we explore what our kids are good at, it helps boost their self-confidence and strengthen their mental well-being.
"I would encourage educators and parents to allow children to try out different hobbies and when they find something they are good at, it makes the student feel proud at what they are able to accomplish," he signs off.
This article was first published in theAsianparent.