Parents and students, need help with English? EduEdge, Singapore’s first and only English Language Specialist using the ‘Formula-Style’ method of language learning, is seeing spectacular results from its proprietary teaching methodology. This innovative approach helps students learn English in a systematic, step-by-step manner using formula-style strategies to make it ‘do-able’ just like Math or Science. Already, more than 1000 students have successfully improved by at least 2 grades, with some students improving up to 5 grades in just 4 months!
What is the ‘Formula-Style’ method?
It is part of the ‘Total English Mastery System’ in which the various skills for learning English are dissected into 6 core language skills and then divided into 32 sub skills to help students learn and master the core skills. Specific exam formulas have also been created. Each of these core skills, sub skills and formulas can be easily practised. This structure makes learning English more systematic and scoring well in exams therefore becomes easier and more predictable.
The Our Parenting World (OPW) team is pleased to be able to interview Mr Edwin Edangelus Cheng to find out more about EduEdge Learning Hub and his teaching methods. Mr Edwin Edangelus Cheng (EEC), is a Language Specialist with more than 15 years of teaching experience and specialises in coaching English to Primary and Secondary School students. Formerly an MOE-appointed Subject Head (Curriculum Innovation) and HOD (English) in school, he is now the Director of EduEdge, Creator of the ‘Formula-Style’ method of teaching English.
Exclusive Interview with Mr Edwin Edangelus Cheng
1. Please share with us more about your background and what made you decide to set up EduEdge?
EEC: I am Edwin Edangelus Cheng, Founder and Principal of EduEdge Learning Hub, a tuition school specialising in English. This year marks the 16th year of my teaching career. Prior to setting up EduEdge, I was a school-appointed Head of Department for English and an MOE Subject Head for Curriculum Innovation. I am also one of the few trained research activists in the teaching fraternity endorsed by our very own Permanent Secretary of Education. Many people are surprised when I share my personal story with them. What is interesting is that I used to struggle with the English Language when I was a student. During my secondary school days, I was getting borderline C passes and on rare occasions, perhaps a low B but never an A. This struggle continued right up until I was doing General Paper in JC. It didn’t help that I was from a non-speaking English family. At home, I conversed in Hokkien and Mandarin with my parents. Out of desperation, my parents sent me to various tuition programmes and engaged various tutors for me with hopes of helping me improve. I also took my school teacher’s advice to read and write more. I was working on assessment books almost every day. Sadly, all my efforts came to naught, I didn’t achieve the A’s which I so badly wanted. The turning point came only after I entered university, that was when I finally cracked the code to speak and learn English more effectively. I become so good that I started scoring my first A’s at university level and that was followed by many more A’s after that. As a teacher, I’ve continued to refine this unique technique of learning English in a way that is easy to understand and apply. Many of my students started getting fast improvements in their English grades from D’s and C’s to B’s and A’s. That was why I decided to set up EduEdge to reach out to students struggling with English, to help them achieve more in the subject so they don’t have to go through my bad experience.
2. What influenced and inspired you to be an educator?
EEC: Well, I would have to say that I was extremely fortunate to have been taught by a few really passionate teachers. They were truly sincere about helping students reach their fullest potential, and their dedication is indeed inspiring. That is what ignited my interest to be an educator.
Secondly, because of my own struggles with English, I do not wish for anyone to go through what I had experienced. That’s why I would like to share my personal experience, and my unique methods of learning English. If I, a student from a non-English speaking family background can beat the odds to become a Head of Department in English, and now a Language Specialist and Principal of a language school, so can any student.
Some people have also asked me why I am so passionate about English. As we all know, English is a compulsory L1 subject in Singapore. A poor English grade will eventually pull down students’ L1R5 or L1R2B2 scores and severely limit their admission options for Junior College, or polytechnic courses. Doing well in English will mean that students have many more doors of opportunity opened to them. They get to choose instead of subjecting themselves to being chosen. I believe also in empowering our younger generation through English mastery. The skills which students acquire when they have a good mastery of English will stand them in good stead in life, and for life.
3. What are some of the challenges that you faced in your teaching career?
EEC: The biggest challenge that my team and I face is educating students and parents on the right way to study English. There are many widely held beliefs about English that are actually false. These beliefs often stem from our own experiences with how we were taught English by our own teachers when we were students.
Here are two common misconceptions.
1) Myth 1. English is a subject which cannot be studied unlike Math and Science. It’s either you have it, or you don’t. This belief is actually self-contradictory. Think about this: English, Math, and Science are all subjects. If Math and Science can be studied, why not English? The trick lies in applying the right technique to studying the subject. Just look at the numerous instances of international students from China, Malaysia, and Korea who came over to Singapore only when they were in Secondary Three. Now, despite having a lower starting point than most of our local students, these students eventually performed exceedingly well and much, much better than our local students in English. The international students’ outstanding performance in English in such a short period of time – two years, versus six plus four years for our local students – attests to the fact that English can indeed be studied. The thing is most parents often choose to ignore the warning signs until it’s too late. Now, they often choose to support their child in Math or Science when they spot early signs of trouble, but choose to do nothing for English until the problem becomes much worse. By then, it is too late. It’s a real shame because their children have the potential to do much better in English if they are supported with the right techniques.
2) Myth 2. My child needs to do more compositions and comprehensions to do well in English. The more they do, the greater their improvement. Again, this is a false premise. If this were true, everyone would become a professional runner or swimmer simply by running rounds and swimming laps. Likewise, to improve in English, it is not about doing more practice papers or more assessment books. Many parents often share with me that they are confused as to why their child’s grades remained stagnant, or worse still, dropped drastically even when the child has had more practices. Yes, practice makes perfect but only if it is mindful. Working on more compositions and comprehensions will not help without knowing what went wrong in the first place.
4. What do you enjoy most about being an educator?
EEC: Well, as clichéd as it may sound, I would have to say it is the deep sense of fulfilment – the sense of satisfaction when I see my students improve, achieve their coveted grade in English, being able to join their desired course, or dream JC; and basically get on with their life and achieve whatever they have set their mind on achieving. Many of my students still keep in touch with me even while they’re in university, or have already graduated from school. And of course, nothing brings a bigger smile to my face or that of my team when we see our students becoming enlightened, and having that ‘eureka’ moment when they finally see the patterns and steps of English, and can solve them. My team and I are also deeply humbled and heartened when students come up to us and share that they’ve learned more in one of our lessons than what they’ve learned in one year of school.
5. What advice would you give to parents who are looking for a English tutor or a English tuition center for their children?
EEC: Well, there are three key aspects which parents should keep a look out for before they engage an English tutor for their child, or enroll their child in an English tuition center.
These three key aspects are:
1) Curriculum: What does the tutor or tuition centers use?
2) Pedagogy: How do they teach?
3) Teachers: Who is teaching their child?
Does the tutor, or tuition center have their own in-house curriculum? Or are they simply using assessment books or school exam papers? Now think about this: If the tutor or tuition center does not even bother designing their own resources, do they truly have your child’s interests at heart? The answer is obvious. Any decent tuition center must have their own self-developed curriculum. Not just any learning resources, but one that is aligned to the MOE syllabus and has current affairs infused throughout. Parents should be mindful that there is now a heavy emphasis on argumentative and discursive topics for Paper One Writing. So, in order for their children to be able to tackle such topics effectively, they need not only logical reasoning, but also to be able to see things from multiple perspectives, multiple points of views, and be aware of what is happening in the world around them. That is why learning resources must look into equipping children with current affairs knowledge.
Now, just having a good curriculum, or learning resources is not enough. It is possible for some centers to have in place learning resources but students still do not make any improvements. Why is this? The key reason lies in how those resources are being used. That’s why parents should ask the tutor/tuition center how they teach English. If the tuition center simply states how many compositions, or how many comprehensions they do each week, or they have small class sizes, then those are red flags which cannot be ignored.
Many of our parents before they came to us, have been in the unfortunate situation where their children were enrolled with tutors, or tuition centers which just dispense worksheets, or give practice paper after practice paper. Sure, their children are indeed getting practice. But because there is no active teaching and no proper teaching, their children are none the wiser. While they know that their answer is wrong, and what the right answer is, or should be, they do not know how to get to the right answer because there is neither consistent nor structured teaching.
Last but not the least, the most important factor is the teacher factor. It is of no use to have good learning resources and a proper teaching method if the teacher does not have the requisite experience, or familiarity with the English syllabus.
Some tell-tale signs include tutors who are only doing part-time tutoring. I mean let’s put it this way. I’ve yet to see any Olympic champion who is born from just training part- time. Likewise, a tutor cannot possibly be good unless they devote themselves fully, and whole-heartedly into the mastery of teaching English.
Tutors who teach a variety of subjects is also a cause of concern because it is not possible for someone to be teaching numerous subjects and be good at all of them. And even if the tutor or teacher has achieved an A in English previously, or they have a prestigious degree from an Ivy League school, those are no guarantees that your child will do well in English. Not all good swimmers make good coaches. Similarly, a tutor who has a good grade in English doesn’t automatically make a good teacher. Teaching English requires a whole different skill set.
And obviously, it is not a good sign if centers have a high staff turnover as it indicates a lack of continuity, or consistency in their teaching. Parents should also be very mindful if any tutor makes any form of guarantee or promises that their child will improve. Making promises like this simply means that the individual is more of a marketer rather than an educator.
6. Can you tell us more about EduEdge?
EEC: Here are four fun facts about EduEdge.
Fun fact one: EduEdge started off as a one-man tutoring class of just six students from a room in my parents’ HDB flat back in June 2013. Through strong word of mouth referral from students and parents, we quickly flourished into a 1,200 square feet education center, and a core team of eight Language Specialists serving close to 1,000 students now. We are also very excited to share that our center will be expanding to 2,400 square feet by the end of the year.
Fun fact two: 80 percent of our students and parents travel from different parts of Singapore from Woodland to even Johor Bahru to our single location in Serangoon. And we have deliberately kept our operations to only a single location, so as to ensure a consistently high standard of teaching quality.
Fun fact three: Since 2013, more than 1000 students from over 82 mainstream independent and private schools have benefited from our unique method of learning English to improve by not only two or three, but even four or five grades to achieve their B3, A2, or A1.
Fun fact four: Our unique methods of learning English using formulas has been so successful in helping students achieve remarkable improvements that we have been given the rare opportunity to be featured on various media such as Singapore Motherhood, The Asian Parents and The New Age Parent – just to name a few. Not only that, we have also received interviews on national publications: The Straits Times, Channel News Asia and National Radio 93.8 Live.
7. How is EduEdge different from other English Enrichment and Tuition Centres?
EEC: Well, there are three core definitive skills we give our students, so that they can edge out the competition. Firstly, learning English using formulas style methods. Many students typically rely on their gut feel to tackle English. This reliance on gut feel is unreliable and this is why these students experience huge fluctuations, or drastic drops in their English grades – not EduEdge students. Our students approach English in a step-by-step and systematic way just like how they will approach Math or Science. We’ve formulated easy-to-remember and effective formulas within a skills-based thinking framework to support students in the various paper components of the English exams.
Because our students know the steps they must take in their thinking and can see the patterns in English, improvements in English becomes more consistent and good results therefore predictable.
Secondly, robust curriculum: Our curriculum took us a total of 26 months and more than 5,000 hours to put together. And you know the best part? We are continually refining our curriculum on a weekly basis to make what’s already good even better. This relentless pursuit of excellence shows our commitment, and support for our students.
Thirdly, EduEdge students are taught by Language Specialists; not just any tutor, or teacher. Unlike many centers who simply hire part-time tutors, or retired teachers, all EduEdge specialists have undergone stringent screening based on a 21-criteria checklist. They have also received rigorous training of more than 1,000 hours, and all of them are well-versed in the EduEdge unique ‘Formula-Style’ methodology of teaching. Upon completion of training, our team meets weekly for professional training to keep ourselves abreast of the latest education developments.
8. Can you share with us what’s your approach in teaching students ranging from Primary 5 to Junior College? How would you teach students from different age groups effectively?
EEC: Now because we are supporting students at different levels, we need to look at the bigger picture. This means that at the end of the particular grade level, or year with us, our students must have achieved certain learning objectives, certain learning goals, and developed certain skill sets. In this regard, we have adopted a spiral progression of formulas; skill sets where they are imparted in the order of increasing difficulty. We could think of this approach just like the different color belts of taekwondo. In addition to supporting the needs of students based on levels, we further stretch students who demonstrate potential, and hunger for growth.
For example: we carry out Level Placement Assessment to accelerate learning progress. Students who’ve performed well on the Level Placement Assessment are allowed to skip a grade and are placed on a level that is challenging enough for them, so that their learning needs are met. Likewise, if we have evaluated that a child has gaps in their foundations, we will make professional recommendations to their parents for the child to be in place at the level that is suitable to their learning needs. Because English is a skills-based subject, it need not and should not be tied exclusively to students’ age, or level. We can think of English as a subject of building blocks. If some blocks are missing at the base of the structure, it would be difficult to build a steady or tall structure on a shaky foundation. And that is why parents must give their children a strong foundation for language learning, so that they can master the subject effectively.
9. Do you have any success stories to share from the students you had at EduEdge?
EEC: Definitely! The success story that I would like to share is a little bit more unusual. This is a story about how a student significantly improved his English grades from fail to pass even though he was medically diagnosed to be poor at learning languages. This Sec Four boy enrolled with us about two years ago and when his mother first called us she sounded really desperate over the phone. Her child was scoring B’s and A’s for all other subjects, but had been consistently failing English ever since he was in Lower Secondary. As we are all aware, if a student fails his English Language paper, he effectively fails his GCE examinations regardless of his performance in all his other subjects.
Adding to his mother’s worries was the fact that her son has been medically diagnosed with language based learning disabilities. She had previously enrolled him in a number of other English tuition centers, but failed to see any significant improvement. To make matters worse, her son started dreading going to English tuition classes. She was at her wits end, and at a total loss on how she could help him prepare for his upcoming national examinations.
Now most people think that English is a subject that cannot be studied – we beg to differ. We equipped him with a systematic step-by-step approach to learning English using our ‘Formula-Style’ methodology. Fast forward three months and we received news from his appreciative mother that her son had passed English for his prelims for the first time ever. Imagine her elation and relief.
While it may seem just like a pass to many students, this boy came a long way with sheer determination and consistent application of the skills that he had been taught. The right attitude, and efforts, combined with guidance from the right teachers, and the conscious, and consistent application of the right teaching methodology will lead to success in English language.
10. What can students do to improve their grade in English besides having a tutor or going for tuition classes?
EEC: Respect English; Treat English as a L1 subject. Many students perform extremely well in Math and Science, but struggle with English because they are spending much more time on Math and Science. Most students are spending an additional six to eight hours per week on their homework for Math and Science, but most aren’t even spending an hour a week on English. So treat English with the respect it deserves, and it will reciprocate in return with a good result.
Now, when students start investing more time in English, that is a great start. But they need to be mindful of what they are doing. Students should have a consistent weekly schedule and set aside a day to practise composition or comprehension. Remember, it is never about the number of practices, but the quality of the practices. They need to reflect on and learn from their past mistakes.
11. What advice would you give to an individual thinking of pursuing a career as an educator?
EEC: For any individual who is thinking of establishing themselves as a respected educator, they need to possess two P’s. The first P is what we call ‘purpose’. That’s what I always share with my team. We have no business being in the education business if we are not passionate about teaching and sincere about helping our students reach their potential. Many people often come into the education industry thinking that it is an easy job. Nothing could be further than the truth. Teaching is hard work as well as heart work.
The second P, ‘proficiency’. If they want to be the best, they have to be prepared to invest the long hours and hard work to master the key essentials of good teaching. Many interviewees I’ve spoken with often give me an incredulous look when I share with them that they need to undergo training. Many of them assume that just because they are diploma or degree holders they are automatically qualified as good teachers. Think about this: is the individual a qualified surgeon just because he has a medicine degree? The answer is clearly not. Likewise, to be a top notch educator, it is no walk in the park. If the individual cannot see this fact, or is not willing to invest time and effort to master the teaching craft, then this career is not for them. They must be good at what they do or they will do a huge disservice to their students. Teaching is a huge social, and ethical responsibility.
12. Lastly, do you have anything else that you would like to add on and share with our readers about EduEdge and your programs?
EEC: For a limited time only, just for the month of December, my team and I will be conducting a diagnostic consultation session for students and parents who are serious about mastering English more effectively in a shorter period of time.
These 1-Hour Diagnostic Consultation sessions are normally chargeable at 150 dollars but because you are our valued OPW readers, these consult sessions will be free! – only for the first 12 OPW readers and their children!
Now do take note though, this diagnostic consultation is not for everyone. It is only for parents who are committed to improving their child’s English grades.
In this 60-minute consultation, the EduEdge Team of Language Specialists will analyse your child’s latest SA2 papers, so that you have the clearest, and most accurate picture of what your child needs to do to improve in English.
You and your child will also learn what Cambridge markers are looking for when they mark exam scripts. And of course, you get to have a sneak peek at how we actually teach English in a step-by-step way using formulas.
Thank you Mr Edwin Edangelus Cheng for taking our interview!
EduEdge Learning Hub conducts classes from Primary 5 to Junior College and has helped more than 1000 students achieve at least a 2 or more grade improvement, with more than half of them scoring B3, A2 or A1 for their GCE national exams.
EduEdge Learning Hub has kindly sponsored our valued readers, a free diagnostic consultation session normally costs 150 dollars for you and your first child for the month of December. Check out EduEdge Learning Hub today!
EduEdge Learning Hub
Address: 301 Serangoon Ave 2, Singapore 550301
Tel: 9797 6581
Congratulations to all the students who have just completed their PSLE, it has been a challenging and stressful period for most families including us! We are now at a phrase to prepare one of our OPW kids who has just completed his PSLE this year for a new beginning to a brand new Secondary school. It is a big step for all Primary 6 children and a huge transition for them to move to Secondary schools.
Please stay tuned as we bring you to a new learning journey on how to transit and cope successfully in Secondary schools.