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.Tuesday, 1 January 2008@2:58 am.

The English Conundrum

English, like other languages, is organic in nature. Yes, it is comparable to the growth of a plant or animal which takes a long time to show signs of change. It is unlike Mathematics or Science where memory work and intensive drill and practice can bring improvement in a matter of 2-4 weeks. In other words, one has to be patient to see improvement in English. Unless the student plays his/her part by putting in daily efforts to read widely (comparable to the daily watering of the plant), it usually takes months for improvements to take shape.

Two biggest hurdles exist for many students who wish to improve his/her English proficiency:

(i) Fail --> Pass

For students who wish to cross from the Failure to the Pass realm, mental and emotional barriers exist on top of their very weak foundation. Daily reading and regular review of past papers are absolutely necessary to grow their fragile language foundation.

(ii) B (60-69) ---> A (70>) grade

This is where tenacity comes into play. Besides close supervision, regular readings of advanced materials, knowledge of common themes and regular application of good writing techniques will plant the student firmly in the realm of the A(bsolute). Many students think that one cannot study for English - that is absolutely untrue.

How do teachers judge students' performance?

Because of the unique organic nature of languages leading to possibly slow progression, keep in mind the following 3 factors when assessing a student's performance. This is especially helpful to buffer the low morale of weak students.

How much improvement is considered acceptable?

From a teacher's perspective, any improvement is a good sign. A 2-grade jump from the previous is considered significant, especially for weak pupils.

How about that extremely low grade?
Apart from considering improvements made, we need to keep in mind that a low grade does not mean that all is doom and gloom. Compare the grade with the class and level average, if they are available. As long as the student's mark is above the class/level mark, his/her performance is considered acceptable.

How about maintaining the improvement?

The biggest challenge to any student who has just displayed significant improvement is to maintain that same grade in the next test. No one wants to be compared to a 1-hit wonder singer who is unable to maintain his/her record sales with the next hit/album. For that weak student, if no improvement is made but the grade is maintained, that is a positive sign itself.

To contact Saint Tutor : stanleyah@hotmail.


Saint Tutor offers English Language tuition for Primary and Secondary students.

Solo or group lessons are conducted at a convenient location near Kovan MRT.

An MOE-trained teacher for both primary and secondary school levels, he has taught in Singapore primary and secondary schools for 8 years and tutored students since 2001.

Schools Taught:
• Pei Chun Public School
• Bendemeer Secondary School
• St. Andrew’s Secondary School

Previous Roles in Sec Schools
• Team Leader (Level Co-ordinator) for Secondary 1 & 2 Express and Normal (Academic)
• English & Literature Co-ordinator
• Pioneer Form & Subject Teacher of SASS RK Adams Class (with specialised curriculum for top students)
• Caring Teacher Award winner

Quick Links,

Getting There (click)
for a 3-minute walking directions from Toa Payoh MRT.

How To Improve In English (click)
to understand how improvements in languages differ from other subjects.


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