Why Study English?
It’s no secret that English is fundamental to the way our world operates. It is the most widely spoken language in the world, with 1.5 billion users. English is often the main language of communication, in businesses and in the classroom. English is even prevalent in tourism; in many countries around the world, signs in native languages now come with English translations to cater to the large number of English-speaking tourists and travellers that grace their shores. English is also the main language of modern media and the Internet, with the bulk of information and content being created and shared in English. Essentially, to unlock the world for yourself and its myriad opportunities, a strong command in English is necessary. It’s not surprising at all that of the 1.5 billion English speakers, over 1 billion of them actually speak it as a second language. This means they probably picked it up at some point in their lives after understanding its importance.
The list expounding the importance of English is endless, but in short, a strong proficiency in English helps you better connect to the world around you, meet and surround yourself with different cultures across different communities, and open doors to many professional opportunities, bringing life to the phrase, “the world is your oyster.”
In a highly globalised country like Singapore, where many international organisations also call home, English proficiency is the foundation on which your child will go on to thrive amongst communities from all over the world. Often, it takes enrolling them in English tuition in Singapore to accomplish that.
English & Careers
English is a prerequisite for almost every career imaginable. There’s a reason why it is the non-negotiable L1 in the O-Level L1R4/5 scoring system; without it, there’s no way forward. However, there are also various career paths and professions that require a much higher level of English proficiency —
Where would we be without journalists who brave the frontlines and relentlessly pursue the truth so that we as citizens can be more informed about what is happening both in Singapore and around the world? While modern society gets caught up with sensationalist news and paparazzis, let us not forget the hardworking and gritty journalists and reporters who deliver timely and accurate news quite literally to our doorsteps, sometimes even putting themselves in mortal danger (think war journalism). Our men and women in the newsroom work under immense pressure, not just to ensure their reports are accurate, but that they are also succinctly written so that the general public can understand them.
In a world saturated with countless companies and organisations looking to get one up over each other, marketing is a highly sought after service as businesses compete for eyeballs and potential customers. Content writers are an important cog in the marketing machine, crafting creative copy for all manner of advertising, from branding, to captions, to emails. It’s not enough to just have a strong command of English, content writers are also required to be creative, sending compelling messages that set their clients apart from the competition. Content writers will continue to be in high demand, with potential to transition into senior and better paying roles, such as an editor, or even a creative director. There may even be opportunities to work with larger international agencies abroad, especially in the US, where competition is stiff and the boundaries of creative marketing are constantly being pushed.
Easily one of the most rewarding careers your child can have, English teachers have the power to change the way English is perceived by the next generation. Here in Singapore, where Singlish tends to negatively impact the way proper English is spoken, English teachers can help change the status quo by creating a nurturing environment for students to practise good English and cultivate the proper skills and knowledge to excel at it, thus broadening their horizons in the years to come. Indeed, it is extremely fulfilling knowing that you’re able to make a significant difference to the lives of our future leaders and trailblazers. The best part about being an English teacher is the freedom to teach anywhere in the world, as effective English teachers are always in demand, especially in countries where English isn’t their first language.
These are just a few examples of the fruitful careers that a strong command of English can enable your child to have; careers that allow them to earn a decent living whilst making a difference in the world around them. Just like building a house, a solid foundation is absolutely vital to its longevity, so start your child young by enrolling them in English tuition in Singapore and setting them up for long-term success.
A Breakdown of PSLE and O-Level English
Objectively speaking, excelling in English mostly involves excelling in PSLE and O-Level English papers. Regardless of how holistic or engaging you want tuition classes to be, that’s the bottom line at the end of the day. Most PSLE English tuition and O-Level English tuition dedicate a significant amount of time unpacking and revising past-year papers so students can get a better idea of what a typical examination consists of.
Paper 1 (Writing)
At their core, PSLE and O-Level Paper 1 are both designed to test each student’s writing abilities in different scenarios, albeit in slightly different formats. Let’s break down the respective papers.
PSLE English Paper 1 — 55 Marks; 1h 10mins
PSLE Paper 1 consists of two parts, situational writing (15 marks) and continuous writing (40 marks). In situational writing, students are required to write a short email, report, or letter that succinctly addresses the purpose, audience, and context with the necessary information. The situational writing segment aims to prepare students for the sort of writing that they will constantly be doing down the line, like writing emails and reports. On the other hand, continuous writing will test each student’s creativity through their interpretation of the picture prompts given and their ability to write a short, interesting story of about 150 words. Students are also expected to demonstrate their range of vocabulary and sentence structures.
O-Level English Paper 1 — 70 Marks; 1h 50mins
O-Level English Paper 1 comes with an additional component — editing (10 marks). In this section, students are tested on their ability to identify and correct grammatical errors found in the given prose not exceeding 250 words. The situational writing component (30 marks) is also slightly different in that students will now have the additional option of writing a speech. The length of the writing has also increased to 250–350 words. In the continuous writing segment (30 marks), students will no longer have pictorial aid; instead, they will be writing a story of 350–500 words based on their chosen writing style, be it narrative or exposition, coupled with the scenarios that they’ve picked. Both papers, however, still test one’s creativity and ability to write both succinctly and imaginatively.
Common Difficulties Faced in Paper 1 and How to Overcome Them
One of the biggest obstacles students regularly face in Paper 1 is a phenomenon called, “writer’s block,” when ideas fail to materialise and even if they do, they lack the nous to translate those ideas onto paper, perhaps due to a lack of essential writing abilities like proficiency with different writing styles, or understanding of sentence flow. There’s also the added pressure of completing the paper under time constraints, which is a common cause for writer’s block. The best remedy for writer’s block is to read more books, and this can’t be emphasised enough. It doesn’t matter if it’s an article, or a blog post, or a storybook. Expose your child to different genres of literature, different authors, different writing styles — storytelling is a nuanced art that can be subconsciously absorbed by readers engaged in the story.
Another way to gain confidence in Paper 1 is to practise time management under simulated situations. This is commonly done in many PSLE English tuition and O-Level English tuition programmes, so that students will get accustomed to the pressure, learn to manage stress, and not let it cloud their train of thought during the writing process.
Paper 2 (Comprehension)
As the name suggests, Paper 2 is all about testing each student’s comprehension skills, or, the ability to understand and process English texts.
PSLE English Paper 2 — 95 Marks; 1h 50mins
Students will be tested on their grasp on fundamental grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills through a mix of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and open-ended questions. They will also be required to analyse given comprehension texts and demonstrate their understanding through various editing, synthesis, and transformation open-ended questions.
O-Level English Paper 2 — 50 Marks; 1h 50mins
There are 3 parts to this paper: Section A (5 marks) contains a visual text that students are required to scrutinise and then answer different questions that test their comprehension skills. They will also be tested on their usage of language for maximum impact. Section B (20 marks) consists of a narrative text that students will be referring to when they answer comprehension-related questions. They will also be tested for usage of contextual vocabulary and language for impact. Finally, in Section C (25 marks), students will be studying a non-narrative text to answer comprehension questions. Additionally, they are also required to write a 80-word summary, which tests their understanding of the text and their ability to rephrase it.
Common Difficulties Faced in Paper 2 and How to Overcome Them
One recurring difficulty when it comes to Paper 2 is the inability to answer all questions in time as students struggle to understand the given texts, answering the questions as succinctly as possible, and specifically for O-Level English Paper 2, writing summaries accurately. To that end, it would be helpful for students to practise analysing a wide range of texts under similar time constraints to get used to the pressure and to pick up effective comprehension techniques and strategies, like learning how to read and analyse texts quickly, as well as expanding their vocabulary in order to better understand those texts. These are issues that our O-Level English tuition centre in Singapore strives to address.
Paper 3 (Listening Comprehension)
Listening comprehension is like reading a text with your ears. Essentially, students will be tested on their ability to catch details in spoken text.
PSLE English Paper 3 — 20 Marks; 35mins
Students will be tested on their ability to understand spoken English well by listening to several recordings of various natures, from news to announcements, to advertisements. They will then answer 20 MCQs based on whatever they’ve heard earlier.
O-Level English Paper 3 — 30 Marks; 45mins
This paper comprises two parts: Section A (24 marks) requires students to respond to a variety of listening tasks. They will first listen to different types of audio texts including narrative, recount, exposition, and information report, thereafter answering various types of questions such as MCQs, fill-in-the-blanks, and true/false statements. Section B (6 marks) is a short segment where students will undertake a simple note-taking exercise based on the given informational text.
Common Difficulties Faced in Paper 3 and How to Overcome Them
Paper 3 is often overlooked because listening comprehension tends to be underestimated and perceived as effortless. Yet, it’s quite easy to lose track of the audio text and miss important details altogether, especially when difficult words are used and students are too focused on trying to figure prior sentences out to pay attention to the rest of the text. To better prepare your child for listening comprehension, conduct mock practices under real exam conditions so they can develop their critical thinking and listening skills.
Paper 4 (Oral Communication)
Paper 4 is all about assessing a student’s ability to articulate well and converse spontaneously.
PSLE English Paper 4 — 30 Marks; 30mins
For Paper 4, students will first read a given passage out loud, minding their pronunciation and flow; after which, they will engage in a conversation with the invigilator based on a picture and three given prompts.
O-Level English Paper 4 — 30 Marks; 20mins
O-Level English Paper 4 is split into two sections: Part 1 is where students will be asked to read aloud a short passage in the form of a short narrative, news report, speech, or an announcement, or sometimes, a mix of different types. They will be assessed on their articulation skills, appropriate expressiveness, and awareness of purpose, audience, and context. In Part 2, students will be shown a visual stimulus, usually linked to the text in Part 1. They will then engage in a discussion with the examiners to analyse and give their insight about the stimulus.
Common Difficulties Faced in Paper 4 and How to Overcome Them
Most students struggle with accurate articulation and idea generation; the former stems from not having enough supervised conversations, and the latter from not having enough critical conversations. The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to read aloud and have conversations; it could be with anyone in your family, or your peers, or if your child is enrolled in an English tuition centre, they could also spend time engaging their tutors. Additionally, there are plenty of reading materials freely available for your child to practise reading aloud with, from newspaper articles to storybooks.
The Reality of English
Tips to Acing English
English, like many other languages, is an instinctive subject, which means that there are many aspects of it that can’t simply be gained from reading textbooks and doing practice papers; not that you shouldn’t be practising at all. How can your child pick up the right techniques to excel in English, then? Here are some helpful tips.
Read and Write More
One of the biggest favours your child can do for themselves is to pick up the habit of reading consistently. It is by far the most effective way of equipping them with almost every necessary linguistic skill, from writing, to grammar, to vocabulary, to creativity. They should also put all that acquired knowledge and skills into practice by writing regularly. It could be a blog, a journal; basically anything that allows them to sharpen those skills. Encourage these habits.
Adopt Examination Techniques
Having a strong command of English alone won’t win you the war; excelling in exams comprises knowledge and exam technique in equal parts. The best English tuition centres in Singapore are those that are able to impart invaluable examination techniques to their students, allowing them to better understand what’s expected of them in every question, and how they should approach those questions.
Practise Exam Papers
The purpose of practising English exam papers isn’t so much to memorise questions, but rather to be exposed to different questions and texts. For instance, after completing several exam papers, your child will probably have a larger pool of questions about, say, past participle, and through those questions, they will have a better understanding of how that particular tense works.
Enrol in English Tuition
When it comes down to it, it’s likely that your child simply requires professional help, rendered by English experts with experience in tutoring students from all levels and walks of life, and can better empathise with their struggles when it comes to mastering English. What then, you can expect from a good English tuition centre for Primary School students, or even a good English tuition centre for Secondary School students.
English Tuition in Singapore
Just seven years ago, 8 in 10 Primary School students and 6 in 10 Secondary School students were enrolled in tuition programmes, according to a poll conducted by The Straits Times. With the importance of results continuing to grow in importance in Singapore, it’s hardly surprising that these figures might have increased since then. In short, there’s a growing demand, and English tuition is no exception; and for good reason, too. There are several benefits that come with enrolling your child in English tuition.
Smaller Class Sizes
One of the biggest issues amongst students in school is the lack of personalised attention that they’re able to receive as a result of being in a large class of about 40 students, reducing the amount of time that teachers are able to afford each individual. This is detrimental as students may find opportunities to clarify doubts and ask questions limited, further stunting their development. Here at tuition centres like Augustine English Classes, class sizes are kept small to maximise the attention that each student receives, because what’s the point of English tuition if students are only going to encounter the same issues they’ve had in school?
PSLE and O-Level examinations afford very little room for error if your child is to succeed, and doing so sometimes requires professional guidance in the form of experienced tutors. This is especially true for subjects that are difficult to master, such as English. Moreover, when you’re surrounded by a Singlish-speaking community, students do need a disciplined environment to practise speaking and using proper English. This could be even more pressing for Secondary School students who are more set in their ways. With Secondary English tuition, they will have the opportunity to correct poor English habits. That being said, students can only develop well under an effective English tutor, which begs the question, “Just what are the traits of an effective English tutor?”
Good English Tutors
Tuition centres are only as good as the tutors they employ, and a good tutor can make all the difference in your child’s learning experience. Here’s what you should look out for a competent English tutor:
- Expert in the subject — this really is a bare minimum for all English tutors, that they should be extremely knowledgeable and skilled at the subject, considering they will be responsible for setting their students straight. Additionally, they should also be effective in imparting essential English skills to the students under their tutelage; it’s not enough to simply be an expert at English, tutors ultimately need to know how to teach!
- Adept at maintaining engagement — many students possess a notoriously short attention span, and for a subject like English that requires complete focus, especially in aspects like listening comprehension, it’s important for an English tutor to keep students engaged, not just so they can learn more effectively, but also to develop a longer attention span that will keep them focused throughout an entire English paper.
- Passionate, patient, and attentive — a good English tutor needs to possess a relentless desire and passion to facilitate your child’s development in the language; to lay the foundations that will enable them to carry themselves well beyond examinations, and into the real world where it really matters. A good English tutor should also be empathetic towards the struggles that students face when it comes to learning English, and to patiently walk them through the many bumps they will encounter along the way. Lastly, a good English tutor pays careful attention to your child and understands their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to tailor lesson plans to suit their needs.
Looking for an English tutor who possesses all these qualities? Meet Augustine, our principal tutor at Augustine English Classes. Not only is he wholly committed to delivering comprehensive and engaging English tuition programmes to his students, he also endeavours to instil confidence in them, as he believes that in examinations and in life itself, excelling in them is as much theoretical as it is psychological — it’s not enough to merely have knowledge; character matters, too. That is the driving ideology behind our English tuition centre.
The Headstart Your Child Deserves
The English language is a powerful communication tool that will broaden your child’s horizons, potentially further beyond any stretch of imagination, as it is virtually the gateway to the rest of the world. Set your child on the right path at an early age with English tuition, as it helps them solidify fundamental concepts and foundations, paving the way for them to grow in the language in the years to come. Whether you’re looking for PSLE English tuition, or English tuition for Secondary School students in Singapore, it’s not too late to start improving your child’s proficiency in English. For more information about the English programmes that we offer, contact Augustine English Classes today and give your child the headstart they deserve.