Undergraduate Andy Teoh starts up a thriving—and highly unorthodox tuition center.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF EDUCLINIC|
If you were a concerned parent paying tuition fees to see tangible improvement in your child’s grades, there’s a good chance you’d be hopping mad to know that the tuition teacher spends much of the time chatting and cracking jokes.
And if you were parent to a moody, rebellious punk-loving teen, it is quite unlikely you will win him over by suggesting he take a physics lesson.
But hold the protests and complaint letters. These tactics may actually work.
Student-entrepreneur Andy Teoh, 25, owner of tuition center Educlinic, is confident that they do.
“In school, students already have a formal teacher who is strict with them. As for me, I treat my student as friends and forge a relationship with them. This is not wasting time; if they come to your class with all these problems, it is likely they can’t focus.”
“Funny, I Remember This”
While most teachers believe in establishing a clear sense of teacher-student authority, Teoh believes in breaking down the barriers. Educlinic is painted bright yellow, orange and green with wall stickers. Pop music plays at the reception area, creating a hip and fun study environment that puts students at ease.
While discussing math equations, he intentionally throws “lame” jokes at his junior college students to keep their attention and to appear more approachable. When he explains complex physics theories, he even constructs his own experiments and videos to demonstrate. In lessons, he comes off as eccentric with his huge gestures, flailing his arms and scribbling pictures on his white board to make his point.
According to his students, this unorthodox approach works. Anglo-Chinese Junior College graduate Lim Jiaxuan says her grades jumped from E to A in H2 Math and U to B in Physics for her preliminary exams. She says the analogies and videos he used helped her to understand complex theories in these subjects.
Cassandra Leong, 17, has had a similar experience. She says: “Andy has helped me to improve my grades for A maths from F9 to a B3. I like how he is dedicated in his teaching and can explain and simplify problems in many different ways.”
An engineering science undergraduate in his final year at the National University of Singapore, Teoh first started giving lessons as a means to earn a little extra cash. Surprisingly, his home classes began to overflow so he decided to open a tuition center to accommodate more students.
Broken Hearts Don’t Learn
From his years of tutoring students, Teoh began to see the importance of taking a relational approach with his students.
“I had a Secondary 4 student who was quite resistant when she first came. I found out that she had not initially wanted tuition, but had been forced to come by her mom.” She remained quiet in class, but he made constant efforts to talk to her. After having conversations with her, he realized she was facing many relational and social problems in school, and it was hindering her from focusing in class. He gave her advice from his own experience, helping her solve her problems, and further on, to score good results.
“I do my best to ensure that if a student needs help, I’ll be there,” says Teoh with passion.
Teaching and learning comes naturally for this student who is on the NUS dean’s list. As improbable as it sounds, he says, “I love to study. I guess I’ve been through the process of realizing the importance of education, that’s why teaching is my passion.”
One, Two, Three; Diagnose Your Student
Teoh says the Educlinic caters to students’ individual learning styles, based on his concepts of teaching. He shares with City News the key goals and beliefs he wants his center to hold.
Firstly, there is a seed for success in every student that can be discovered and grown. Secondly, every individual should be inspired and motivated to pursue and achieve their personal goals and mold them in a holistic manner. This is why he runs leadership camps to provide students with personal development.
Thirdly, if there are “wounds” of previous failures in every individual, Teoh and his team of teachers try to help them get over these. Saint Andrew’s Junior College graduate Melissa Doutzhen Cher relates her experience. “I started tuition with Andy only towards the end of my JC2 year, with very little time left before my A level exams and with a defeated mentality. However, throughout the three months that I was tutored by him, not only did he patiently impart his knowledge about physics and chemistry to me, he went to the extent of teaching me life lessons. He was more of a friend and mentor who gave me newfound confidence in myself, than a run-of-a-mill tutor who was concerned about monetary gains and academic excellence.”
Fourth, lessons should be customized to meet the needs of every individual. And lastly, Teoh believes a “strong three-fold cord” should be established with the tutor, parents and student to achieve good academic results. This means clear communication between the three throughout the learning process.
And the results have been positive. Teoh says student numbers grew from 30 in June 2009 when he started, to 70 in February 2010. The center has at least 10 other teachers. He has also started up science camps as well as leadership camps for his students for their personal development. He says the business is now aiming to reach the students in the nearby schools in Sengkang.
But this young entrepreneur admits it is no walk in the park to manage Educlinic full-time while handling his school work and university exams. “It’s hard to juggle, especially since I don’t have any full-time workers.”
The center is run largely by himself, with the help of his girlfriend Napalie, who does administrative work for the business. But Teoh says his faith fuels the dream.
“When I get tired, I pray to God about it. I find it helps me to have the positive thinking I need to keep going. In fact, my hope is to keep running the place for a few months until the business runs by itself, so I can move on to serving God full-time.”