The Business of Education or The Education Business (Part 2)
How and What Do I Choose?
With such an array of enrichment centres offering a plethora of programmes, where do I start looking for a ‘good’ centre to meet the needs for my child? You have ‘googled’ all the forums on-line, spoken to relatives and neighbours and had recommendations from colleagues, and yet you seem hesitant to sign on the dotted line. After all, they all ‘promise’ success and display their students’ T-Score proudly at their doorstep and website. For the moment, I will just focus on the three more relevant factors in deciding a suitable tuition centre for your child.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and HDB have recently tweaked tender rules where the highest bidder no longer is guaranteed a site to set up childcare centres. They now look into a scoring system to include fees charged, the operator’s track record and, what I feel, is most important, the quality of programmes on offer. Searching for an enrichment centre should be no different. Look out for programmes that do not duplicate or replicate what your child is already learning in school. Ask about programmes that ‘teach’ rather than ‘test’. Skills and skill-sets are far more important than merely imparting required knowledge just to pass an examination. After all, streaming, the PSLE, the ‘O’ Levels, DSA interviews and the like are merely ‘destination checkpoints’, albeit essential ones.
There's an incredible amount of information available on the internet, which means that if you want to become knowledgeable in some field, you probably could. It just requires that you have enough genuine curiosity to compel you to look up the information online. Ask relevant questions on whether students’ intellectual curiosity are ignited in their passion for learning. Does the programme allow for a collaborative and co-operative learning environment, for example?
Understandably, not every centre would reveal their ‘trade secrets’. None the less, there are set-ups which offer free (yes, free!) diagnostic tests to determine the suitability and level for your child. Critique and question these sample material worksheets, for instance. Do they employ higher-order thinking (HOT) skills? Is there a ‘stretched curriculum’ in place, where, certain questions assess a child’s ability to use abstract reasoning in their responses? Are these materials ‘original’ in the first place? The look and feel of the designed handouts and worksheets will be a good indicator of the professionalism of the organization, not to mention how much pride and effort is put into crafting these learning documents.
All of these must be certified and trained. The recent uproar in the media of teachers who are ill-equipped to deliver the curriculum has no doubt cast a negative light to those centres who have excelled and produced excellent results, especially in their pedagogy and teaching methods. This ‘black dot on a white wall’ syndrome has sent parents switching centres immediately. There is no need to press the panic button. A little bit of research and ‘education’ goes a long way, and could invariably save a lot of time, money and effort, not to mention the need for your child to adapt to changes in new environments. It is your duty and right to ask and enquire. Be observant and prudent, too. Speak to the coaches and get a ‘feel’ of their teaching philosophy and background. How motivated are they? Basically, do students enjoy their lessons and is there rapport with them? Do they possess the knowledge of their students’ individual learning ability and styles? How often is feedback given? These are just some questions for you to ponder and reflect before you consider the next step.
After all is said and done, it is paramount that we remember that all children learn differently and grow and develop at differing stages. So who’s ‘business’ is it to educate the future generation? Our fear of failure is the initial impetus for supplementation, in the first place. At the end of the day, it takes two hands to clap. As parents, positive motivation overrides everything else. Praise our children for the effort made, no matter how incremental the improvement, rather than criticise, and let them see tuition as not something that we want as best for our children, but something that is good.