A tuition program that gives underprivileged children a chance at academic excellence.
|PHOTO COURESTY OF SMART KIDS TUITION PROGRAM
In a society where emphasis is placed on academic merits, children who score below-average grades often find themselves sidelined. Through no fault of their own, these children miss out on opportunities their peers receive.
The reasons why children these days have a hard time coping with elementary school education are many: insufficient attention and guidance given to the child’s studies at home; lack of a conducive studying environment; learning disabilities which go undetected.
While serving the underprivileged in society, City Harvest Community Services Association has come across many children from lower income or single-parent families who struggle to make the grade.
“Their situation is pretty much a vicious cycle,” says one CHCSA social worker. “The issues these children face at home affect their studies, leading to borderline performance and poor grades; this reinforces their defeated state of mind.” While some children break out of their negative circumstances in spite of the odds, others could do with a helping hand in their studies.
In June 2005, the KITE’s Smartkids Tuition program was created with the aim of helping these children. KITE is part of CHCSA’s outreach to underprivileged children. The tuition program was launched with a vision to raise SMART (Scholastic, Mature, Articulate, Responsible and Thinking) children through providing academic assistance (English and Mathematics, and more recently, Science) in a fun and enjoyable way to those who cannot afford private tuition.
Today, the program has expanded to include a total of 230 children taught by 23 volunteer tutors weekly.
What differentiates this program from a commercial tuition center? According to Ruth Yong, one of the main coordinators of Smartkids, it is the program’s all-rounded curriculum which focuses not only on academics but mind stimulation and character development. Unlike traditional tuition which emphasizes mainly on grades and rote learning, the program aims to address the individual needs of the children. Smartkids tutors are trained to address specific conceptual weaknesses through mental stimulation (lesson plans include Math Olympiad questionaires) and evoking interest among the students.
Ultimately, the teaching style of Smartkids aims to cultivate an attitude of knowledge acquisition, so that the desire to learn comes from the children.
A class for students age 4 to 8 typically encourages student participation, with an average class size of approximately 25 to 30 students taught by two educators. Two-hour long classes are held every Saturday, with time divided between English and Math. The setting is informal and conducive for student-teacher interaction. For the older children, lessons are taught using hands-on experiments, projects and IT based-learning to pique their interest.
Organizers have ensured that the Smartkids Tuition curriculum is structured in accordance with the Ministry of Education syllabus. Currently, Smartkids is consulting MOE educators with regards to identifying problem areas generally encountered by students in schools.
With its need-driven and holistic approach to education, the program has seen some success over the years, as well as new challenges. With an increased number of students signing up for Smartkids, the program now faces issues of space constraint and a shortage of educators. Despite this, the current group of volunteers remains optimistic about its work after witnessing marked improvements in many of their students’ academic performance and greater enthusiasm toward their studies.
As Yong determinedly affirms, “We know that by giving these children a chance at their studies, we are paving a way for them to overcome the negative circumstances of life.”
For more information on Smartkids Tuition Program or to sign up as a volunteer teacher, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.