Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuition Centre teachers... and one arrogant ang moh

So my 7-year-old son, Andre has been having some difficulty with English composition for a while. Since he was in P1 last year, I had been coaching him, but as most mothers probably know, we are hardly the best teachers for our own kids (I have no idea how parents home-school their kids without killing them). Basically, Andre's idea of a good composition is a long one. He comes home and tells me he wrote 243 words. Even if it was mostly rubbish and incoherent.

So after he came home with a 6/10 for his latest CA2 composition exam, I thought it was time to seek some professional help. Being the ever practical mum, I checked out the ones nearest my home first. This one was called I Can Read. It's an Aussie franchise and they mostly teach reading to pre-schoolers, but I had read that they also had a writing/exams module for primary school kids, so I thought I'd explore that. I was told I could bring Andre in for a free assessment so I did. This horizontally-challenged ang moh called Ken brought us into a room without so much as a hello, and sat us down. After the preliminary name-taking, etc, he asked Andre to read a list of words. Andre did ok until the last word - "obnoxious". He didn't know it so he said "ambitious". Ken immediately looked at me accusingly and said "that's a P1 word". Now, I'm pretty sure Andre has never seen that word before. I'm also very sure there are many P1 kids who don't know the word. But hey, give the guy a chance, right? So I didn't say anything.

Next, Ken asked him: "what's a noun?" Andre didn't have a clue. Now, at his school, they don't teach the names of word types at P2. I don't know about other schools in Singapore but I'm pretty sure it's not the only one. Ken proceeded to give a list of examples of nouns, then asked "what's a verb?" followed by "what's an adjective?" By then, Andre was looking completely bewildered, so I told Ken he didn't learn these names in school. Now, to my astonishment, he went on a verbal barrage (with a sneer on his face that I was so longing to slap), telling me how he has designed the school syllabus for MOE, how teachers are supposed to teach it but many don't, why he therefore doesn't send his kids to Singapore schools but to schools in the US instead, how his kids knew these things by age 5, blah blah blah.

Now, I don't know how other Singaporean parents would react to this, but if there's anything that really gets my goat, it's b****y patronising, arrogant expats who come here, live here, earn a good living here, and yet see fit to criticise everything about Singapore. So I retorted that every education system was different, that I had absolutely no interest in his kids and I didn't know why he was telling me about them. I think he was annoyed that I didn't act like the meek Asian mum and asked whether I would like to wait outside. I stood up, took Andre and said "Actually, I think we're done. I have no wish to sit here and listen to someone who thinks he's so much better than anyone else."

At this point, he started blustering and protesting. By then, I was fuming and told him "well, then you're not very good at communicating because that's exactly the message I got. For someone who's supposed to be teaching communication, you sure suck at it." I didn't plan to say it, it sort of just came out. I know it was rude but I have to admit I took satisfaction in walking out on him sitting there, looking dumbfounded.

I'm pretty sure he just dismissed me as an ignorant, over-protective mum. But I was perturbed to know that there are such judgmental jerks here who parents entrust their kids' education with. Because many parents are desperate for their kids to have better grades, we think the professionals would know better. But attitude is everything (almost) and what kind of self-esteem would our kids have if they learn under a teacher who tells them that they know less than they should? So avoid this centre like the plague - I Can Read.

Anyway, I walked over to Morris Allen two doors away and signed Andre up there. Ironically, another expat centre. Let's see how that goes.


moomchi said...


happened to read ur post from a link.
Just wanna say, good for u!

Yvonne said...


I love to read your blog, its my cup of tea.

This ang mo really sucks.... thumbs up for you.

You are absolutely right, we don't have to send our kids to any so-called "prestigious" centre.

Basically, all the children have to do is read,read and read.

My girl is one good example, I started to read to her at the age of 1 and now at the age of 6, her vocabulary is very good.

monlim said...

Anon: I received a comment from you but decided I couldn't publish it as there are allegations that I can't prove and you didn't leave a name. No, I don't have this "Ken"'s full name, sorry. If what you say is true, that's truly appalling indeed!

Anonymous said...

I feel you were right to be indignant at this rude man. However, not all expats are arrogant - arrogance is not a question of race, but rather of attitude.

I'm an expat who has been working with Singaporean students for the last twenty years here in Singapore. I love the kids, and have a lot of respect for the Singapore Education system. I Can Read is, I believe, a franchise operation, and the problem with franchising is that it can hard to maintain the quality - better to choose a centre which has a stronger reputation and a real commitment to Singaporean children's learning.

monlim said...

Anon: Certainly I don't mean to imply that all expats are arrogant, one of my best friends is an expat. It's just a few who seem to carry the superiority complex and spoil the reputation for the rest.

Yup, the quality of franchises can vary widely. It's very hard to find an ideal centre, except by word of mouth. It's probably the reason why Andre is still tuition-free for English, 2 years on!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love your blog and particularly, this post!

I'm sure Andre will do well - he's definitely in good hands. I'm teaching in a neighbourhood school where parental support is almost nonexistent. If only i have parents like you in my class...

Anonymous said...

... and actually you would make a very good tutor yourself, why dont you tutor Andre yourself?

monlim said...

Anon: Thanks, the trouble is I just don't know how to teach English! The scope is so wide, I don't know how to teach it in a systematic and effective way.

btw, the last I heard, this "Ken" has since been wanted by the police for various not-so-lawful activities. Frightful that the centre doesn't check up on their teachers' credibility.

Catherine said...

Hi Monica, had been reading your blog these 2 nights and find it very entertaining.. and real!!

I laughed at this entry. Cos which parents can teach their own kids without killing them... and i also salute those home schooling moms...

Well i have my story with ICR too. when DD1 was at K2, she was not quite reading to me .. i was worried so i bring her to ICR assessment. Low and behold, I was so put off by the school assessment staff and totally discouraged. If I have been like any other mom believing every thing they said, I would sign her up immmediately. Bcos i believe in readiness and i believe she can read..but well, now she is P3 and she just simply cannot put down the book in her hand. I am so happy. Best alternative to the long and uncontrolled TV hours.

Jia You!

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