City College’s holistic approach and unconventional teaching methods aim not only to help school dropouts but turn them into global changemakers.
Contributed By Annabelle Low
Says founder Kenny Low, “Singapore has one of the best public education systems in the world. Our government has devoted a tremendous amount of resources to our national education system. What City College seeks to do, therefore, is to complement the system by providing alternative pathways to nurture future agents of positive change.”
Formerly known as City Harvest Education Centre, City College began as a tuition ministry in City Harvest Church in 2002, when Low felt led by God to build a school. With a few friends, he started out offering a group of 20 students subsidized tuition classes under the voluntary welfare organization City Harvest Community Services Association.
As the voluntary tutors interacted with the students, they observed that those who took the GCE examinations as private candidates were not adequately prepared to sit for the examinations (statistics released by the Ministry of Education between 1999 and 2002 revealed that an alarming 40 percent of the 7,000 private GCE candidates in Singapore each year failed every subject).
Seeking to reverse the trend, the tuition ministry started employing application-based learning as opposed to rote learning. Simultaneously, the tutors adopted a holistic approach in reaching out to the students (many of whom were deemed high-risk and labeled as school drop-outs) by instilling in them a sense of identity and self-worth. Together with a dedicated staff, Low nurtured the students based on the potential they saw in every one of them, and frequently reminded them that their past failures were in no way determinants of their future.
As the ministry’s unconventional teaching methods started to bear fruit, the ministry expanded, took on the name City Harvest Education Centre and offered preparatory courses for both GCE O- and N-level examinations in 2005. In 2009, CHEC achieved “college” status and changed its name to City College.
Today, City College is internationally recognized as the school of second chances, helping students who are not able to excel in the mainstream school system get another shot at quality education.
Relevance is fundamental to City College’s mission of producing individuals who are able to impact and inspire the world through positive changes in society. Leadership and entrepreneurship are key areas of focus at City College; students are exposed to the workings of modern economies and contemporary business models, and are given the opportunities to interact up-close with working professionals through organized seminars and company visits—in fact, movers and shakers of the business world are frequently invited as guest speakers to impart their real life experiences.
Additionally, constant innovation in curriculum design and assimilation of new knowledge is undertaken in order to keep abreast of the rapid changes afforded by exponential advances in the technological field. Technology is integrated into the students’ learning experience with the use of personal computers, SMART Boards and other teaching aids, including even their smartphones. Simulation, games, and project teamwork foster interactivity and enhance overall learning.
City College will soon launch the International Baccalaureate program, the framework and philosophy of which is highly student-centric, with a strong focus on world-readiness and community service—a perfect fit with the mission and vision of City College.
In response to the definition of school and education, therefore, Low has this to say, “A school should be a place where you discover your strengths and learn how to cope with your weaknesses. It is where you can find role models who will help shape your core values. It is where you build lasting friendships and become empowered to relate to the world and contribute positively to society.”
For more information, log on to www.citycollege.edu.sg.