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Secrets revealed by ex-RJC Lecturer, founder of The Physics Cafe (An Exclusive Interview)

Why are students from IP schools still attending tuition? Is tuition necessary for those who are already doing well?

Many parents asked the same question when they observed that 7 out of 10 students in PMC classes are from IP schools.

The public may have the perception that students who go for tuition are weak academically or ‘kiasu’ in nature. This is ironically not true. I do notice a shift in the parents and students’ mindset. In the past, most students tend to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. They seek extra help only when they are falling behind in school. This is very different from the students who opt for tuition now. Most students attend tuition classes to stretch time as learning will be more effective under a good teacher. They want to achieve more in the limited time and that’s why they want to have the option to choose their teacher.

Basically, all my students, regardless IP or non-IP are motivated. They adopt a proactive attitude in life that brings them to where they are today. They constantly seek to better themselves and this is the attitude that motivates them to attend tuition classes.

physics cafe

physics cafe

I was not fortunate enough to have any tuition when I was a student. I worked very hard on my own, wrote my own notes, spent hours just to solve one challenging question. Thankfully, I managed to get a distinction without tuition. But with tuition, it would have been less time consuming and stressful for me. What took me 6 hours to learn on my own could have been completed in an hour under the guidance of a good tutor.

How do we choose the right tuition centre?

You will be surprised that not everyone is looking for the “best teacher”. There are some who look for proximity from home, convenience (home based tuition), class size, school fees affordability or good customer service. Everyone has different priorities.

The tuition market is not a transparent market at all. You do not go around trying different tuition centres in Singapore. Suppose you like carrot cake, you can go to a different carrot cake stall every week and write a blog to rank all the carrot cake in Singapore. But you cannot do it with tuition centres! This is not a trial and error game. If you choose a wrong tutor, it will waste your time and may lead you to think that you are just “not good” in the subject.

If I want to choose the best carrot cake stall in Singapore. I will go to the one with the longest queue. I will go to the one where the picky foodies will go to. This is because I think they will not make the wrong choice. 

But then when I do, I accept that I cannot complain when the queue is too long. Just like I will not complain if the class size of a popular tuition centre is big. 

physics cafe

physics cafe

Popular tuition centre usually has big class size. Should I choose
a 1 to 1 home tuition instead?

Firstly, a teacher well-known in his industry will not go over to your house to have a private lesson with you. Most, if not all will opt to offer help to more students at one time, without compromising on the quality of his lessons. The students will also be happy as quality lessons are made more cost effective as they get to share the cost with other students.

There are so many tuition centres newly set up in the past 3 to 5 years. Many hope to be super tutors.  Their class size will be small unless the tutor is exceptional and the tuition centre is established and reputable, Of course, they can use that as bragging rights that their class size is small and therefore can afford more attention per student.

physics cafe

physics cafe
Are you thinking of dividing the effectiveness of a lesson by the number of students in the class?

Are you thinking that if the class size is small (about 4 to 6 students), the student will have more opportunity to ask their own questions and the lessons will be customised to them?

Assume that I have 50 students in my class and that I know “the best way” to teach. Further assume that I know what you are going to ask, even before you ask. I think class size does not matter. Even if it matters, it is because it gives you an indicative idea on how “amazing the lesson is”. In fact, the more students in the class, the more engaging the lessons are.

How do you ensure the quality of lessons?

Our tutors are trained to present knowledge in the most interesting way within the shortest time possible.  Existing students in PMC will realize that there are video cameras at the front and back of the classroom. Weekly, my team and I will review the video clips scrutinizing even the smallest details. I have a stopwatch beside me to keep watch of every minute to ensure the lessons are paced appropriate.

I will even into the extent of zooming into details such as the tone and the expression of the tutors during the presentation, so that the lessons will be more memorable. It is my job to ensure that the tutors will ‘WOW’ you every single lesson.  

physics cafe

physics cafe
You started The Physics Café in 2009 after teaching in RJC for 6 years. How big is The Physics Café now?

Last year, we had a record breaking of 1000 secondary and JC students attending our Physics and Maths classes. This year (in 2018), we decided that we are ready to meet demands from the West and East of Singapore. We expanded to 3 outlets, conveniently located next to Beauty World, Novena and Paya Lebar MRT. Each of these centres are equipped with their own lecture theatres, in-house cafe, exclusive study rooms and digital library.

Will the quality of the tutors be affected? I will not be expanding if that the quality will be affected. The team of tutors is still largely the core team of tutors in the early Bishan, Marymount and Toa Payoh days. They are chauffeured between the centres to give them enough rest and yet maintaining the quality of our lessons, which is the signature of PMC.

In the upcoming June Holidays, we will have the annual signature June Holiday workshop, where our students from all 3 outlets  come together to revise all the chapters in the syllabus. The lessons will be efficient and effective, and they get free lunch and dinner on us. In 2017, the workshop was sold out to 1000 students and we are back again in 2018. We are only running that once a year and I recommended students who want to have a taste of our lesson to check out this opportunity.

physics cafe

THE PHYSICS CAFÉ, FOUNDED BY EX-RJC LECTURER SINCE 2009.

As featured in The Straits Times, The New paper, The Smart Local, asiaone.com, Vulcan Post.

Find out more about the signature June Holidays Lunch Workshop in The Physics Cafe.

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