PSLE Results – an afterthought

The PSLE results have finally been released.

Congratulations to those who have done well and to those who have fallen short, don’t be disheartened. You have merely yet to shine. Remember, every situation can present itself as an obstacle or an opportunity. You must never stop believing in yourself.

Many years ago, a boy took his PSLE and was greatly anticipated to earn himself a place in one of the top schools.  Not only did he fail to secure a place in the coveted schools, he was unceremoniously posted to one of the neighbourhood schools (in the past, you had to choose your schools first before the results were released).  Yet, he did not stop believing he could soar to greater heights.  As he was one of the better students in the non-elite school he was posted to, he excelled both in his studies and in sports.  He became a Head Prefect and a Basketball team Captain.  He was always eager to help his straggling peers and was well-liked by friends and teachers alike.  He thrived in the environment; something which probably might not have happened in an elite school.  He eventually fared handsomely at the GCE O-levels with straight As for all his subjects. He got into a top junior college and aced his GCE A levels; winning a university scholarship.  The rest is history… The boy is none other than my beloved brother.

My brother was not crushed when faced with a disappointing result initially.  Instead, he embraced it positively and believed that he could still make a difference.

Before I conclude, I would like to leave you with a famous quote from Forrest Gump

Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Never stop believing, really…

The power of BIG (non-elementary) words

When writing essays, apart from mature and logical arguments, the use of of BIG vocabulary is another pre-requisite if you want to achieve a distinction.  According to official marking scheme by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), these are called ambitious or complex vocabulary.  Sounds complex?  Not really.  

GP Essay marking scheme

These words are actually found in the comprehension passages of various schools, newspapers and books, of course!  Whenever I come across them, I note it down and over the years, I have a collection of almost 300 of them (and still counting…).  I share these words with the upp sec and JC students.  They use them in their practice essays.  Of course, the ultimate aim is for them to use in the exams.  And for those who do, they score in language.  

So, don’t underestimate the power of vocabulary if you want to ace your essay.  Attached samples of students who use them in exams.

Sample 1

Sample 2

Annual Volunteer Seminar

Every year, I am invited by the Buddhist Society to conduct O-level English seminar for parents and students.  The seminar held last Tuesday was the 7th year since I started conducting the annual session, as a way to do good for society for what I have been blessed with.

Among the feedback that I received from the participants, I am most inspired by one that commented what he/she had learnt in that 3 hours, was more than what he/she learnt at school.  It’s flattering but it’s very motivating to have parents walked up to me after the seminar, thanking me for a job well-done.

You can view more pictures by clicking

Strict with my expectations

Recently, a JC student left his/her previous tuition class and asked me if he/she could join my lessons instead.  I asked him/her if he/she could share with me the reason for leaving the previous tuition.

The lessons were online and students were not required (even not allowed)  to switch their camera or microphone on.  The teacher would be delivering the lessons and students just had to listen and make notes.  They were not allowed to ask questions.  There was also no homework at all.

I believe to many students, lessons like these would be “perfect” for them as it’s a breeze to just listen and no work needs to be done.  Since the camera is also switched off, students can do their own things while the lesson is in progress.  To students who really think this is the best kind of tuition, think again…

Lessons like these have no interest if students learn and follow.  The fees are cheap, but it’s really a waste of parents’ hard-earned money.  

The student failed GP eventually…  To all my students, now you know why I have been strict with you.  That’s because I care.

Don’t write off the efficacy of online lessons

Many parents are put off by online lessons.  Common concerns include the lack of supervision and students can simply “tune out” while the lesson is in progress.  In fact, whether these concerns are valid depend really on the teacher conducting the lessons.  

I used to conduct physical lessons before the pandemic.  During the pandemic, no physical lessons were allowed.  I had to pivot all my students to online learning.  And it’s no looking back since….

Contrary to popular beliefs, there is no compromise in the  quality of online lessons.  To ensure that every student benefits, the group is kept small (max 6 each session).  And every student must switch on the camera and speaker.  No student is allowed to mute or turn off the speaker without permission.  This enables me to engage every single one of them and to know if they are following the lesson.  When we discuss an essay, every one contributes and brainstorms.  Similarly for compreshension, every student will be required to provide answers.  In short, my online lessons are fully interactive.

Every lesson online is similar to how I would have delivered face to face.  However, online lessons have  a lot more benefits.  There is no need for students to travel physically (saves time and costs).  Online lessons can also be recorded and played back.  Parents can view them at their own convenience.  Students can also review them for anything they might have missed.  Parents can also choose to learn together by logging in from their devices (observing with their camera and mic switched off).  And finally, previously, many students could not benefit from my lessons due to proximity issue.  With online lessons, I can reach out to students regardless of locations.

The all important question.  What about the effectiveness?  Many students have achieved distinctions (attached some screen shots).

I hope by sharing this article, those who are ambivalent about online lessons can give it a thought.  It really boils down to the teacher.  Think about it; if a teacher is not concerned whether students pay attention during lesson, even if the lesson in face to face, it’s simply a waste of students’ time and parents’ money.

Essay discussion
S2 Paper 1
S2 Paper 2
General Paper (GP)

Technology can weaken your abilities

I embrace technology.  The internet was only available to the masses from 1995. I grew up without the internet as a teenager and truly marvel at what technology can do to make our lives easier and more efficient.  Those who were teenagers like me before the internet age would fully understand.

Much as technology has transformed our lives, presumably for the better, there are some aspects that can cripple us.  This is particularly so if we do not know how to wield its power wisely.  Lets talk about the latest wonder, ChatGPT.  This technology is so intelligent that schools and Institutes of Higher Learning are grappling to leverage its power.  To many students, it is a godsend.  Yet, many students do not realise with the wonders that AI has created for them, it is perniciously robbing them of their writing skills.

I would like to share with you a piece of writing to show how deleterious AI can be.  Previously, this student was able to form fairly varied sentence structures correctly.  However, with AI, it was so easy for him to cut and paste his work.  On one occasion, I verified that his piece of work was actually done by AI.  I got him to rewrite, and the piece written by him had numerous sentence structure issues.  There is clearly a deterioration in the quality of his writing.

To all students, if you want your writing to get better, the only way is to keep writing and make mistakes.  Jumping blindly on the AI bandwagon will only weaken your linguistic abilities.

2022 O-level results – afterword

The O-level results was released last week.  I am particularly pleased, for two straight years, even the weakest among all my charges delivered a B.  Certainly, I congratulate those who did exceptionally well.  I knew you would deliver, I was never worried.

I would like to share my thoughts about the weakest student instead.  You were always struggling, both in school and in my lessons.  You usual teacher was suddenly transferred out and filled in by a relief teacher.  It didn’t help that the relief teacher only showed videos during lessons, or read excepts from comprehension passages.  In your words “there was no real teaching at all”.

C6 and D7 were your usual grades, you wanted desperately to inch into to the B category.  You set your sight on getting into a JC.  What happened in your school was tearing you further and further away from your dream.  There were times you were so dejected that you began to doubt yourself if you could do it all.  Not to mention the numerous pounding from me, because I believed in you. I wanted to show you, comfort and growth simply do not co-exist.  You cried hard, but soldiered on again the following day.  I admire your resilience.

When you called me last week, you were overwhelmed by joy.  I knew then, it’s all worth it.  YL, you rose to the occasion.  I am proud of you.  You finally did it!

Praising someone will cost you your life – does it make sense at all?

A true story that happened in 1955 in the US about a 14-year-old black boy meeting his tragic end, simply because he was nice to people.

Emmett Till was a bright and outspoken boy.  One fine day in Mississippi where he visited his cousins, he went into a convenient store to buy some candy.  There, he praised the store owner, a white woman for being pretty.

That night, the woman’s husband and some white men came knocking at his uncle’s home.  They dragged the boy out (his uncle was helpless to white supremacy) and took him to a farm where he was brutally tortured (just because he dared to speak so casually to a white person).  When the poor boy’s body was discovered, the extent of his injuries were ineffable.

For those who enjoy movies that depict social problems like racial injustice, this is a good movie to check out.

Miracles do happen if you keep trying

A mother of a secondary 2 girl approached me 2 weeks before her daughter’s end-of-year exams. She shared that her girl has been very weak in English, either barely pass or fail since secondary 1.  Still, she acknowledged that it was a bit late now.

I have been sharing that given the right techniques, students can soar. And soar she did!  She was delighted to inform me that she got an A2 for her Paper 1.

When the mother first approached me
Sharing with me how her daughter has never even achieved a B since S1
Getting an A2 for her end-of-year exam

Useful Study Tips from some of the Top Scholars

Time is an impartial commodity – regardless of who we are – everyone is given 24 hours each day.  

It is a common grouse among teenage students that they have so many things to do, but too little or no time for them. Yet, some have thrived within the constraints of time while others bemoan the lack of it.

Some of the highest achievers – from those heading to world’s best universities to our President scholars have shared valuable study tips.  They are all good pointers.  Adopt them if you want to achieve your academic goals.

  1.  Create a to-do list
  2.  Prioritise tasks according to due dates
  3.  Study consistently (prevents burnout)
  4.  Plan a revision schedule (one to two months ahead of exams)
  5.  Create a list of questions on the topic (based on past-year papers)
  6.  Keep a record of mistakes (creates awareness)
  7.  Remove unnecessary activities such as gaming, watching dramas and so on
  8.  Set time limit on social media use