About 7 years ago, I left my career as a hedge fund analyst and joined EtonHouse to lead schools. It was daunting to lead an international education group that teaches students ranging from 18 months to 18 years old!
Initially, I shied away from making education decisions, leaving it to my team to guide me. Although I attempted to understand our pedagogy, I didn’t immerse myself in it. Over time, I realised that doesn’t work. I can’t lead an education group, if I didn’t care passionately about what happens in the classroom. It’s like a restaurateur who doesn’t eat the food he serves.
(Related: The Peak Next Gen: Ng Yi-Xian of Etonhouse)
I want to share two thoughts I’ve pondered over these years with you.
First, bilingualism—an expectation we place on our children. The reality is that Singapore is a multicultural society, but many of us are not effectively bilingual. English ought to be emphasised in the workplace for inclusivity. Having said that, our children are growing up in a world where Mandarin is increasingly important, yet we’re frustrated when they show no interest in Mandarin.
We have to remember that, as parents, we are our children’s first role models. If we don’t make an effort to learn a second language and use it daily, then how can we expect our children to do so? If our founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew was willing to take Mandarin tuition classes into his 90s, who are we to shy away from Mandarin classes? I continue to study the language, and my wife and I make it a point to speak only Mandarin to our children.
Second, I’ve noticed that inquiry-based learning, built on the belief that everyone is innately curious, is a foreign concept to many people. Simply put, it’s a way of using a student’s interest to open up learning opportunities. EtonHouse group educators love it because it is the most organic and natural way for humans to learn. Have you ever felt intrigued by a topic, leading you to spend hours learning more about it? A masterful teacher should create learning opportunities that spark these moments.
Throughout the years, Singaporean children have enjoyed this form of learning in our pre-schools, but once they graduate and enter the national education system, they come back and tell us they want to continue learning with us. So, last year, we took the plunge and created our enrichment centre. The Eton Academy applies the EtonHouse approach to fulfil MOE learning outcomes. My goal with The Eton Academy is to show the nation that the drill and kill approach is not the way forward. There is another way to teach the future of our nation, and that is to develop a love for learning in them.