A Study Room that opens up to the world

Upper-primary pupils planning their essays at the Study Room. This year, some students made trips to tuition centre co-founder Lim Wei Yi's alma mater, Hwa Chong Institution - aimed at motivating them to study hard - and to a radio station to see how
Upper-primary pupils planning their essays at the Study Room. This year, some students made trips to tuition centre co-founder Lim Wei Yi's alma mater, Hwa Chong Institution - aimed at motivating them to study hard - and to a radio station to see how it was run. PHOTO: COURTESY OF STUDY ROOM

Children learning the English language at Toa Payoh tuition centre discuss issues, Skype and go on field trips

Interviewing office workers at Raffles Place and reading out loud on an overhead pedestrian bridge may not seem like typical assignments for an English language class.

But these are some of the tasks that children do to improve their confidence in communicating and reading at classes at Study Room in Toa Payoh.

Mr Lim Wei Yi, the tuition centre's co-founder, said he wants pupils to enjoy learning the English language in an interactive and less static environment.

Classes incorporate game shows, debates and role-playing. The children have also done Skype video sessions with reporters about events such as the Nepal earthquake and, once, a pilot visited them to share about the Malaysian plane that went missing last year.

The Primary 6 pupils this year made trips to Mr Lim's alma mater, Hwa Chong Institution - aimed at motivating them to study hard - and to a radio station to see how it was run.

Mr Lim said: "If you just throw an article at them, they will most likely not be interested in reading it.

"So I try to keep them aware of what's happening and give them stories through different means, so that they get excited and start asking questions.

"When you probe and start to know more, it cultivates critical thinking."

Mr Lim said that the revised English language curriculum is "good as it challenges students to think out of the box and be more creative".

It does not mean that the basic skills are watered down, he said. "Writing a good composition still involves a good introduction, some surprises, a storyline and a good conclusion.

"But now the children have more room to explore different scenarios and be innovative."

Madam Janet Yong, 42, who signed up her Primary 6 son at the centre in January, said he enjoys the sessions as they are lively.

"There are still grammar and vocabulary exercises, but Wei Yi encourages a lot more discussion and he shares a lot of news articles with the kids," said the adjunct polytechnic lecturer in accounting subjects.

"That inculcates a sense of curiosity in the children, as they try to understand what's happening in the world."

She added: "As parents, we also try to talk about interesting things in the news over dinner, for instance, school bullying."

Her son's favourite part of the revised Primary School Leaving Examination English paper format is the composition because it lets him think creatively. "Sometimes he compares the content of his compositions with his friends'. They're given the same few pictures but come up with different content and writing styles," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'A Study Room that opens up to the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe