“When I was trying to find a suitable private tutor for my younger brother in his O Level year, I realised that it was not easy to find good teachers. However, thanks to the help of those I knew through volunteering, as well as principals and teachers from my alma maters, I received a number of recommendations by word-of-mouth.
Subsequently, I felt that it was a pity to let the contacts I had go to waste. That was when we decided to start a tuition centre at Jurong West. I was pursuing my engineering degree at NTU back then, and the tuition centre was located very near to NTU.
We started off with about four classrooms. We offered weekly tuition, but when we realised that it was not enough to help students overcome their knowledge gaps in school, we would let them come every day and assign a teacher to supervise their work. We also offered free tuition to kids whose families were facing financial hardship.
Even before I started the tuition centre, I would have kids who lived around my area coming over to my house for free tuition. It felt like it was the right thing to do as I come from a very modest background myself. My mom would also bring my siblings and me to the old folks’ home every Sunday to volunteer, so she was very supportive when I told her that I wanted to help other kids in my neighbourhood.
So that’s how Stalford Tuition Centre began twenty years ago in 1998. We slowly built a name for ourselves and as the demand grew, we would open more centres. Today, the Stalford Education Group operates learning centres, private schools and preschools both locally and internationally.
ISCOS came into the picture when they contacted us about the possibility of partnering up to offer tuition services to their beneficiaries. I had not heard of the organisation, but I was very impressed with their sincerity because when the ISCOS management team came to meet my team, they explained what ISCOS was about and we brainstormed which areas we could collaborate on.
I learnt that ISCOS helps ex-offenders and their children and I find that to be very meaningful. As part of our partnership, we would offer discounted tuition rates to ISCOS beneficiaries at two Stalford Learning Centres.
We started with five student beneficiaries from ISCOS. Only my colleague Veni and I know who they are. We do not reveal them to the teachers and staff because we do not want the student beneficiaries to be treated differently or for them to feel different simply because their parents were ex-offenders. We treat every student without prejudice.
I keep track of the student beneficiaries the same way I keep track of every other student. My teachers would submit to me progress reports and I would keep ISCOS updated accordingly. I have to say that I am very impressed with how hands-on ISCOS is when it comes to monitoring the progress of their student beneficiaries.
Whenever ISCOS discovers that a student did not attend tuition, they will immediately contact the parents to find out why. For example, was the subject offered not what the student is weak in? Did the student feel that the tuition centre was too far away from home? It was heart-breaking to hear some of the reasons they provided. Some of them did not have enough money, so they would rather spend it on a meal than on transport to get to the centre. Thus, we extended the partnership programme to more Stalford Learning Centres around Singapore to make it more accessible for the student beneficiaries.
I think the greatest joy of what I do is making a positive impact on someone’s life. Education can really improve someone’s life for the better. When a person is better educated, s/he will be able to contribute meaningfully to society and pay it forward to the rest of the community, as was the case for me.
I have no regrets making education my career, even if what I am doing now is quite different from what I was trained in; I almost pursued a master’s degree in engineering. My lecturer from NTU once told me that in life, we should do what we like and be very good at it, so I went on to study entrepreneurship for my postgraduate degree. That was when I had the opportunity to go USA and meet with amazing people that founded famous multi-national corporations such as Starbucks and Amazon.
When I saw how passionate these people were going about what they do and how they want to grow their businesses to bring value to people, it really inspired me. I am very glad to be able to do what I love.” – Ruby
Ruby is the Founder and CEO of Stalford Education Group, a working partner of ISCOS.