Private institution City College thinks about teaching in a different way—and its students are the fortunate beneficiaries.
Since its inception in 2002, City College has helped over 1,000 students do—or redo—their best at the ‘O’ level examinations. In fact, the private college is renowned for out-performing other private institutions for ‘O’ level candidates, and is a media darling for the inspiring transformation stories that graduate from its fold year after year.
While the college has no doubt produced “superstars”—those who score five distinctions or the Normal Technical students who enter law school—City College brings more than academic success to its students. It is an institution that instills in its students a love for learning and hope for the future.
Tiffany Chan, 18, enrolled in City College in 2015, after sitting for her ‘N’ level exams in a mainstream school. “After my exams, I felt an attitude change in the teachers in my old school, like they thought I wouldn’t be able to learn and study well under them. So I decided not to continue to do my ‘O’s at that school, and after discussing with my parents and Mr Kenny [Low, principal of City College], I decided to enroll into City College because of the different environment here.”
The ‘N’ Level system under the Ministry of Education offers students in the Normal stream a choice of completing four years of secondary schooling and then progressing to an institution such as ITE (Institute of Technical Education), or going on to a fifth year of secondary school and sitting for the ‘O’ levels, which would allow them to then apply for further academic studies at a polytechnic or junior college.
As the ‘O’ level year becomes a crucial one for students in the latter group, some, like Chan, prefer the nurturing environment of a school like City College. The greatest difference between City College and her previous school are the teachers and friends that surround her at City College.
“In my previous school, the teachers nagged us round the clock,” she recalls. “But at City College, even though our teachers did nag sometimes, they did it to nudge us. I was also able to learn more at City College than in my previous school, because my teachers and friends were always motivating me to do my very best. Classes were always really fun and we enjoyed hands-on learning. The teachers really put in a lot of hard work into every lesson.”
The biggest change Chan found in herself was a change of mindset towards learning, after coming to City College. “I used to think learning was something boring and something that I’m required to do everyday. But after joining City College, I realized that learning can be a very fun thing. The teachers are skilled in the way they engage us; they allow us to learn better.”
Along with a change in how she thought about learning, Chan also found that being in the City College environment taught her resilience, how to remain positive even in stressful circumstances. “Even though I’m an outgoing and cheerful girl to begin with, City College molded my character and taught me to maintain a positive outlook,” she says.
Chan’s favorite memory of her time at City College is “how the teachers at City College always remembered to celebrate everyone’s birthday with a cake they bought and how they would stop class halfway just to sing the birthday song.” This genuine care for the students translates also into the teachers’ preparation for classes. “They always put in so much effort in the class materials so that we would be able to benefit 100 percent from lessons,” she says.
Chan achieved an L1R5 score of 16 and has enrolled in Nanyang Polytechnic’s Hospitality and Tourism course.
“In City College, we design our classroom experience to facilitate learning,” says Low. “We know that everyone has enormous potential to learn and do well. The question is what ‘language’ is needed to connect with each learner, and what illustrations are relevant to him or her? We also ask ourselves: how do we build a culture and atmosphere in which students feel safe to participate, to fail and learn from mistakes?”
Low, who attends City Harvest Church, draws some teaching ideas from the Bible. “In the Bible we read how Jesus would use numerous illustrations at one go to share the truth about God’s love. Each illustration provides context to one group of listeners, to help them to understand the teaching. Sheep stories for shepherds, seed stories for farmers, coin stories for housewives.”
He also notes that people of all ages have no problem learning new games on mobile devices. “Games are highly popular because they scaffold the learning process to provide incremental challenges and a light-hearted environment to encourage you to keep trying,” he notes, adding that this is the thinking the staff at City College employ and adapt to teaching.
City College offers a nine-month intensive preparatory course for GCE ‘O’ Levels, and also a two-year course. Registration for 2016 ‘O’ level exams closes Mar 30. To sign up or find out more, go to www.citycollege.edu.sg or call 6511 6833.