Judge A Tutor More By Her Grades Than By Her School

We believe in wooing talents, not the other way round. Especially an outspoken English and GP tutor who not only possesses stellar academic qualifications, but has also been known in various circles to be an exceptionally competent educator. We have been acquaintances for a long while (as a matter of fact since the inception of this site), and I previously invited him to list with us on a few occasions. He always politely rejected, and I was slightly fearful it was perhaps due to the fact he did not graduate from a junior college stipulated by our listing criteria. Short of being seen as too unpleasantly persistent, I dispatched a fresh invitation to him recently-almost a year since we last spoke. Reproduced below are the e-mail exchanges we had:

My invitation to him to consider listing within Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts:

"Hi YYY,

I pray all is going well with you. Sometime last year I tried writing to inform you we now accept tutor profile submissions FOC but didn't receive a response. With your extremely impeccable academic track record especially at NUS, I dare say you are the kind of talent we are seeking.

I believed you might had reservations about applying to list with us previously because you mentioned having graduated from XJC, which wasn't amongst the junior colleges we listed in our selection criteria. Fyi , we have now expanded our zone of consideration to include those who hail from both XJC and ZJC as per instructions from higher management.

Might you be willing to reconsider? :) "

He replied:

"Dear Administrator,

I thank you for your interest. If I may be frank, the actual reason for my reservations about listing on your site is what one could call a fundamental difference in thinking.

I do not share your organisation's focus on what schools people come from. I am not the least bit ashamed to come from XJC, nor would I be ashamed to come from any JC in Singapore. I do not believe in judging or labelling people based on which school they come from. There is much more to a person's competence and character than that; which school they come from is only one of many determinants.

I also saw your organisation's forum post addressing an A-level school leaver who had scored an A for GP but rather poorly in other subjects. The way your organisation decried his aspiration to become an English or GP teacher is not in concord with my own thinking. I don't see why someone like him/her could not become an excellent English or GP teacher. He excels in the subject. Why wouldn't he have the subject proficiency required to teach it well?

To draw a comparison, I would find it strange if someone were to judge my ability as an English/GP tutor based on what I scored for Chinese or Physics."

I hope you and your colleagues do not take offence at what I have written here. I would be happy to have a conversation with you on these issues. My compliments on your website - it has some excellent content and is conceptually very interesting.

Best wishes of the season "

Thereafter, I responded as such:

"Hi YYY,

No worries, I fully respect your decision. There is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed of coming from any JC, and it is never our intention to make anyone feel less of a person because of his/her academic background. However, in this extremely pragmatic society we can't shy away from the very fact that credentials still do play an important role in deciding the placement of most individuals within the food chain, more so when we are ascertaining the quality of educators at the very first glance.

Granted, we cannot completely discount the possibility that a particular wannabe tutor can do exceptionally well in imparting knowledge for a subject he/she has excelled in despite having largely floundered in school. Then again, discerning parents will choose to tread carefully and not settle for unnecessary risk. So for the particular example you have cited, why would anybody go for someone who has only attained a single A grade in GP when there is someone else with straight As for all subjects most willing to assist the child? Unfortunate as it sounds, impression does supersede ability during initial exchanges with a total stranger. Whether he/she can live up to his/her proclaimed reputation, it's a story for another day.

That said, I shall certainly relay your thoughts to the management and consult them on whether selection policies can be specifically refined to accommodate selected gifted teachers with less than impeccable overall grades.

I truly appreciate your candor, for it is external constructive feedback (regardless positive or negative) that enables us to properly reflect, and as a consequence grow and mature.

You shall always remain a trusted ally whether you are listed with us or not, and before I sign off, allow me to wish you and your family a most joyous Christmas and a blessed 2015. :)

PS: Can I ask for your permission to reproduce our email correspondence on the website? Complete anonymity shall be maintained as far as your identity is concerned."

He subsequently wrote back:

"Dear Administrator,

Thank you for articulating and clarifying your point of view. Certainly while I was quite taken aback by the ferocity of your criticism of the aforesaid student with a solitary A grade, I do realise now that it was driven by one thing we have in common - a passion for education and giving our young people the best.

Indeed there is too much mediocrity in the ranks of our schoolteachers today - GP teachers who don't even have a sound command of English being a case that always gets my goat.

I would just like to stress that having a solitary A does not necessarily imply mediocrity. If so, then Tong Yee of the School of Thought would be most mediocre. The Straits Times reported that he only had a solitary A, for GP. While I have no personal experience of his teaching, his good reputation is probably not totally unjustified.

I don't deny that grades are an important indicator of one's ability as an educator. May I suggest, however, that your organisation judge a tutor more by her grades than by her school. For instance, if someone has straight A's at the A-levels and hails from Jurong JC, she should not be regarded as inferior to a Rafflesian with the same grades. If I have First Class Honours from NUS, then I feel that coming from a non-elite JC should not count against me. In truth, the opposite might be true: that we should have MORE respect for someone from an ordinary school who succeeds, as the odds are against them.

I could not be prouder of my Innova JC student last year who scored an A for GP. I understand that the total number of A's in her cohort could be counted on the fingers of two or three hands.

Now that I understand your philosophy better, I find our differences not as wide and our common ground greater than first thought. Hence I would be very pleased to list on your website. Thank you again for your invitation and yes, please feel free to reproduce our email correspondence with anonymity. I think this is a conversation our country needs to have, as well.

Best regards"

The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 15 December 2014