Ex-RJC teacher now owns tuition centre with its own scholarship programme

Having taught physics at RJC (now known as RI) for six years,  Dave Sim knows how life-defining a career in education is, reported Vulcan Post via AsiaOne.

For every teacher committed in their craft, nothing beats the triumph of discovering they've made an impact on a student's life.

Dave is a legendary figure in his students' eyes - thanks to his engaging and concise techniques on the perplexing subject, many of his students evolve from being a mediocre physics student to an exceptional one.

The Physics Cafe - An education emporium

Dave is unlike any other teacher.

Not only does he wear a mic headphone while teaching, but he also runs The Physics Cafe, a massive tuition centre where he serves as the director and head of academic.

His education centre is half the size of a football field, and also has its own cafe, digital library, scholarship programme, and shuttle bus service.

Pretty cool huh?

It's no wonder The Physics Cafe is dubbed as a premium school.

When Dave first launched The Physics Cafe, he started small by enrolling only JC students.

And out of these 200 pupils, a big group came from established schools like Hwa Chong Junior College and Anglo Chinese Junior College.

Three years later, Dave decided to take the plunge by offering both physics and maths tuition to JC and secondary school students.

Dave definitely gave thought to opening the classes earlier, but chose not to in the end as he wanted to stand by his high standards. Apart from that, he felt that the early launch would not justify the amount of work he had put in to the entire project.

The amount of work for the launch was colossal.

Dave and his team spent not a week, not a month, but a year to put together their lesson materials. Thankfully, their Herculean task paid off.

Currently, The Physics Cafe has close to a thousand students.

Judging by the number of students enrolled in their classes, it's clear having tuition as a kid is a norm in today's world - but for Dave's schooling years, it was the exact opposite.

Never had tuition as a kid

Growing up, Dave was a very studious kid -- he made his own notes, a practice that would ultimately reap the benefit in his career as an educator.

Said Dave:

"When I first started teaching, I was surprised how my ten-year-old JC notes helped my students understand the key concepts in physics."

A visual learner, Dave finds it easier to study his own handwritten notes as opposed to his lecturer's typewritten ones.

"I don't like memorising individual equations and definitions. Instead, I remember the visual image of every page of my notes."

Since he couldn't afford tuition, Dave consistently kept his nose to the grindstone.

He recalled his life as a student, and how he would often spend hours solving just one question.

"Now I'm happy to help my students to save [the] time, leaving [them] more time for other things."

Making tutoring easier for his students

Not only do his techniques get his students out of a tight spot, but his ambassador scholarship programme - that covers both partial and full scholarships - also lightens their financial burden.

So you might be wondering, what do they look for in such an honourable ambassador?

High motivation, and a myriad of factors.

"The ambassador of the school should be a role model for these students. He or she will be responsible for collating the exam results from the students so that we can see how the student fare relatively, compared to their peers," shared Dave.

However, comfort is also one of Dave's priorities.

When he found out the centre couldn't accommodate their needs, he decided to relocate to a bigger space.

Currently, the school is nestled in OrangeTee Building in Toa Payoh.

The Physics Cafe is also taking a beat from massive open online courses (MOOCs) by offering video lessons for students who are unable to afford the tuition fees.

With this online learning approach, students pay half the usual fee to attend the same lesson, with the same tutor, and the same materials in the comfort of The Physics Cafe's very own digital library.

Different expectations

As the interview drew to a close, Dave shared several surprising insights about today's tuition market.

"We have to accept that the trend today is very different. Students who go for tuition are not weak academically or 'kiasu' in nature," he stressed.

"Most students in Singapore attend tuition classes to 'stretch time', so learning will be more effective."

Back in 2014, The Straits Times reported that Singaporean families have spent $1.1 billion on tuition alone; many cite competitive edge and Direct School Admission scheme as their reasons.

However, judging by what Dave has shared, it appears there's more to it.

Is our tuition industry going to hit another record? What does this mean for our future generation?

One thing's for sure, effective learning is a trend and it's sticking for good.