School has barely started, yet my peers are already attending private tuition classes

This query comes from a student:

Hi there,

I am currently a J1 student studying at a top tier junior college; official lessons have barely started, yet some of my peers are already attending private tuition classes. What's the deal here - are these folks just being downright kiasu or simply playing it safe? Am beginning to feel a little frightened I might lose out if I don't follow suit. Could you kindly advise? :( :(

The Response:


It is not wrong to start learning early. Speaking from experience as a former MOE Chief Internal Moderator as well as full-time lecturer for the GCE 'A' Level Exams, the current H2 syllabus is after all significantly more challenging than both the international 'A' levels and IB syllabus which I've also taught btw (for Biology at least).

Then again what matters more IMHO: getting started right on a sustainable basis.

1) Learn Correctly

It can be counter-productive if a student puts in hours of dedicated practice day in day out from J1 all the way till J2...only to discover (or perhaps never do) that concepts/key words imparted by the school/tutor are not legitimately accredited by Cambridge's examining body.

How do you know if the material and teaching a student has received are ultimately relevant? Truth be told, many students (and sometimes even current JC lecturers) aren't able to adequately address these concerns.

It is unfortunate that solutions released by some publishers and institutions (even from a few of the so-called Top-5 JCs) are not entirely accurate, and in some cases, even deviating completely from rigorously proven perspectives already shared by both established science fundamentals and the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Levels examinations board. This may therefore permit erroneous Biology concepts to fester in students’ minds, with possibly disastrous consequences for them going into the exam hall.

Likewise, the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Levels examinations board may not always mark scripts nor award points in the manner most MOE and independent/autonomous schools do. As such one scoring well in his/her school’s internal assessments does not necessarily imply he/she will achieve similar success should the exact same set of answers be scrutinized by the Cambridge examinations board. Sadly, some students only become cognizant of this in the aftermath of their 'A' Level exams when they collect their results slips.

Here are some relevant questions (and not so relevant ones) you could consider using to quiz a prospective teacher/tutor on his/her ability to aid you correctly. Help yourself make an informed decision.

2) Learn Sustainably

I believe the deliverance of enjoyable lessons are a prerequisite for ensuring longevity insofar as the pursuit of knowledge is concerned.

My personal stand is thus to avoid doing something if it isn't fun. And if I am forced to do something, I'll try my darndest to make sure it turns out fun (you may also wish to read about how I have re-invented my teaching processes over more than a decade of helping students like yourself here).

Wishing you all the best!

Duncan Ang

(Senior Councilor: May 2013 - December 2020)

Answered On 17 February 2020