My Blog

Teachers can teach wrongly too

Discursive writing requires a balanced view and I have always taught in my lessons to provide 2 points for agreeing and 2 for disagreeing for discursive essays.  This is also the format I have used for both my lower and upper secondary books.

A student recently informed me that her teacher in school had taught her otherwise and she was confused.  Instead of simply telling her that I was right and her teacher was wrong, I asked the rest of the students what they were taught in their schools.  Everyone mentioned the same format as what I had taught.  With that, I got the confused girl to verify with her teacher once more.  And true enough, the teacher had admitted it was her mistake and she apologised to the class.  

A similar thing happened in 2019.  For the phrase – ‘on the bus’ or ‘in the bus’?  A teacher had taught her class that we should use ‘in’ since we are inside the bus.  Only after I had provided an explanation from MOE, that she realised she had misled her charges.  You may click to read the read the details

The moral of this – teachers can be wrong too.  After all, we are also human.  

Understanding International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme

Last month, we talked about poly as another viable alternative to university.  Some students have asked about the IB Programme?  How different is it from the A levels?

To begin with, both IB and A levels are globally recognised 2-year programmes for university admission.  Unlike the A levels where the entire grade would be awarded in the final exams, IB focuses on consistent work.  This consistent work throughout the 2 years will contribute 20 to 30 percent of the final  grade.  The final exam makes up 70 to 80 percent.

Generally, students who are self-motivated with good time management, and prefer to explore learning out of classroom will find the IB programme enriching.  They are also likely to do well.

There are currently 4 national schools offering the programme:

  1. Anglo Chinese School (Independent) ACS (I) L1R5 cut-off: 5
  2. St. Joseph Institution (SJI) L1R5 cut-off: 7
  3. School of Arts (SOTA) Requires talent in the arts
  4. Singapore Sports School Requires sports talent
source: The Straits Times
source: The Straits Times

The next milestone in your quest for success – Poly or JC?

The O level results will be released in a week’s time.  Many of you would have decided the next path of your education journey.  Good for you!  For some who are undecided or have a misconception that Polytechnics are for those who “either cannot or barely make it to JC”, allow me to share some inspirational insights.

Some say that JC is better as it’s “easier” to get into the University.  Ask any JC student and he or she will tell you that you have to work your guts out to earn a place in our local university.  In fact, our education system has evolved so much over the years that it is no longer about ease of access to university.

Moreover, there are numerous students who thrive in Poly and have gone on to achieve amazing feats – becoming doctors (read): or being sought after by world-renowned universities such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (read).

So, the road that gets you to success is really your INTEREST.  


A poignant reminder of how toxic bullying can be

Joe Bell is a true story about a boy who was constantly bullied in school and eventually taking his own life to escape the ordeal.  The whole family was shattered following the suicide.  His father walked 8,000km across the US (about the distance from Singapore to New Zealand) to speak about the terrifying effects of bullying to pay tribute to his dead son and learning to let go.

The movie is a poignant reminder to bullies, never allow yourself to live in regret for destroying someone’s life.

Marking Scheme under New PSLE Scoring System

Contrary to popular belief, there is no bell curve when marking PSLE papers.  That is, no quota for the number of candidates who can get AL1 or AL2.  Under the new system, marking falls under a natural bell curve instead.

In fact, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE), almost 50% of candidates achieve 75 marks (AL3) or higher. (Click here to understand  the PSLE Scoring System)  Examiners are not rigid when marking the papers.  They will deliberate over every answer and award marks accordingly.

Walking with my warriors all the way

I tell all my students they are my warriors and although I know I have prepared them well for battle, I would pray for all of them on the day of the exam.  This is the ritual I do without fail over the last decade.  

Yesterday was the O-level English paper (I heard Paper 2 was especially difficult) & I share some candid moments… Despite how confident anyone is, it is understandable anxiety is palpable when the moment comes that things can go south.  So ensuring students to stay calm is crucial.  One even stayed connected with me right up to the moment she entered the exam hall 🙂

A great Inspiration from Squid Game

This Korean drama needs no introduction.  Rather than talking about the show (who needs it anyway, haha), I want to share an inspiration that we can draw from its director Hwang Dong-hyuk.

Hwang actually completed the script in 2008 but failed to attract funding to produce the show.  Media companies called script “weird” and rejected him.  At that time, his family was very poor and he was in a lot of debt.  The rejection went on for – TEN years!  Still, he never gave up and continued trying…

In 2019, Netflix took interest in the script as part of its drive to expand the foreign market.  The show (of course you know it already) is a PHENOMENAL success and No. 1 in 90 countries around the world.  The rest is history.

The moral of my story – success may not always be forthcoming.  Never give up, keep trying even when others have no faith in you.  You will rise to the occasion when you stay true to your belief.

Happy Teacher’s Day 2021

Thoughtful words and gestures like these are invaluable. It’s the icing of the cake for this journey over the last decade.

Thank you all!

Thank you Erin for the creative work. To view the innovative work of Erin, click on the Fun Slides
Thank you Yi Feng
Thank you Dylon
Thank you Carys
Thank you Dylon
Thank you Claresta. I love the coffee!
Thank you Yue Ling

Types of Situational Writing

The year-end exams are coming; especially the English O-level Paper 1 begins in October.

There are a total of 6 types of situational writing typically in the exams namely

  1. Speech
  2. Feature Article
  3. Formal Email
  4. Formal Letter
  5. Proposal
  6. Incident Report

Among all, Speech is the easiest as there is no format to remember.  It’s almost like writing another piece of essay.  All students have to know is the structure in organising your speech.

A Feature Article can be a news article or magazine write-up where students become reporters reporting a piece of news or reflecting an experience in a magazine.

In Formal Email or Formal Letter, students typically write to someone in authority.  As such, there must be proper format to follow to reflect the formality of the email or letter.

As the name implies, Proposal is written to propose an idea or event.  Students are usually confused by the format between a proposal and incident report. Beware!

Similarly, an Incident Report is required to report an incident.  As the the format very similar to a proposal, students can be confused.  It ever happened in a SAP school that almost the whole cohort failed Situation Writing for using the incorrect format.  Be careful!

I would like to share with everyone the different types of Situational Writing and the correct format.

Standard of exams has raised tremendously over the years

It’s not easy been a student today.  Thirty years ago when I was a student, tuition was a term virtually unheard of – only the weak ones had tuition.

Today, the tuition industry is worth S$1.4billion in Singapore.  9 in 10 students are reported to have some form of enrichment lesson.  Hothousing students has become the norm.  And it is not without good reason…

I did my O levels more than 3 decades ago in 1988.  I still keep the English paper.  Comparing the English O level exam 30 years later in 2018, the level of difficulty has gone notably higher.  In 1988, comprehension was simply based on inferential skills and vocabulary power.  30 years later, apart from the fundamental inference and word power, answering techniques are required for specific questions such as Language Use, Unusual and Effective, Irony, Writer’s Craft, Contrast and Effect, paraphrasing etc…

To all students who are reading this, you have a much higher hurdle to clear.  I know.