Singapore’s education system has been hailed the best in the world; BBC reported in 2016 that Singapore came out tops in the Pisa rankings conducted by the OECD in Maths, Science, and reading.
But as they always say, with great education system comes great stress.
As the South China Morning Post (SCMP) put it, “Singapore’s education system is reputed for producing children who top the world rankings in standardised tests.”
But we can’t all keep studying for the rest of lives, using examinations and tests to measure our success in life.
Knowing what it feels like to be aimless in his youth, this Singaporean decided to take the road less travelled to help the next generation figure out their own definition of success.
Creating A Worldly Classroom
27-year-old Rahul Dave is the head coach at Score Campus, which was first set up by his uncle in 1996 in Texas, USA.
Formerly a student at Score Campus, Dave has helped his uncle with the business since he was in Secondary 2.
With that said, Score Campus isn’t a tuition centre à la Kumon – it’s more like an education facility that fuses unconventional teaching methods and personal development programmes.
Dave’s uncle moved back to Singapore in 1998, then bringing along the business with him.
In 2003, they built the world’s largest learning academy in Singapore, mainly conducting camping trips to Malaysia for pre-teens and teenagers.
10 years later, in 2013, their first physical campus was established.
It was only later that they realised our education system, while an effective “content delivery ecosystem”, was far from providing a wholesome learning experience.
In spite of our world-class infrastructure and being early-adopters of technology, our education system is rather superficial because of how exam-driven we are and how we judge others by their grades, he added.
“During our university days, it was evident that students from other nations had the ability to figure out projects and tasks faster compared to us Singaporeans who thrived in the classroom. The balance was just not there to get the best of learning,” he said.
Thus, in the new campus that they built in 2015, they installed ‘new-age’ classrooms to show how flipped learning and blended learning can be incorporated into everyday learning.
Dave explained, “The physical campus is where students come almost everyday after school and weekends to practice their independent learning, discipline and responsibility and also sports time.”
“Our camps are where a lot of changes happen for a child, it is an emotional experience where they set the goals and visions for their future. [We are] connecting education to their daily life.”
Tables at the campus are mobile and have writable surfaces that are eco-friendly; and their equipment like battery-powered projectors, speakers, and touch screen tablets are also more small, portable, and user-friendly.
The furniture used at the centre is also purposefully chosen to make students feel uncomfortable after 20 minutes, so they’ll be encouraged to either go for a walk or change positions because sitting for too long deprives blood flow to the brain – and this eventually affects thinking.
Scoring Their Goals
Dave shared that Score Campus focuses on the overall development of a child, and they do it in three ways.
The first is through their campus, where students will go to everyday after school. The second, through the camps they conduct; and third, through direct collaboration with schools.
When working with schools, they carry out the same activities as they do in camps and in the physical campus, except that students are doing it together with familiar faces – their school teachers.
At the moment, the third method is done mainly in India.
They decided to expand to India last year because they found that they could greatly improve the education system there.
“The problems there are huge, and we underestimated the issues, [mainly] education. But I personally want to solve many issues as well; starting from hygiene, women discrimination, rich and poor segregation all the way to education system,” Dave told me.
In India, they have since worked with over 5,000 students over a period of one year, doing student programmes and have worked with over 600 teachers through their teacher programmes.
He explained to me that content of the camps they conduct are based on qualities and skills students would need.
They have three categories: character development, real-world skills, and sports.
In character development, students will learn to identify their goals and visions for their future no matter their age.
“Many have told us that kids are too young to think about their future and all, but it is better to think at a young age rather than wait till they are in university and are still lost,” Dave said.
Just like when he took Mechanical Engineering in polytechnic, because he was told a future in engineering was “safe”.
After National Service, Dave pursued his degree in Australia and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce in Marketing Management in June last year.
“During my poly days I was a little lost in life, just going with the flow and not knowing what to expect. It was because I was the product of that education system,” Dave recounted.
He started getting involved in the business after he realised that he could fulfil his desire to help people with it.
“I wanted to be the third perspective and help students [find their] meaning in life. I want to give them a reality check – if they do not do anything now, they are going to finish their studies feeling lost in life.”
He strongly believes that instead of talking to his students about famous people, he has them relate to him with his personal life experiences.
The last thing my students need is another teacher or another parent that nags at them.
“People always look up to people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and feel near to impossible to do what they did. I want to be successful in a way where my students look at me and tell themselves that they can be successful too,” he shared.
He hopes to inculcate empathy in his students; to think about the people around them as he believes this develops their mentality towards life, their family, and the work they do.
As for real-world skills, he explained that plenty of youths “still feel lost” despite having chosen their paths in polytechnic or university, so this course teaches them skills like how to dress appropriately and communicate clearly during an interview, and even entrepreneurship know-how.
Finally, they believe that sports and physical activities are integral to a student’s overall development as they’re some of the “most neglected elements”.
He explained that students can learn values like leadership, teamwork, communication, and sportsmanship from sports, and leaders can be discerned in the way they play together with a team.
“This is when we create teachable moments instead of just delivering content about [those values]. At the same time, of course, the physical fitness and health is always intact. Healthy Body = Healthy Mind,” he quipped.
To date, they have worked with over 8,000 Singapore students for their camps and their campus programme.
Making Their Mark
The steep learning curve of running a business was difficult for him, but he isn’t complaining because he fully expected it.
He juggles finances, rapport-building with parents, marketing, and sales on top of coaching in the day; at night, it’s when he does his own homework of preparing the lesson plans and the materials for the students.
As Head Coach, he’s also in charge of business development; some of the projects he’s led in India include integrating the rich and poor students, providing education and making clean water accessible for the less fortunate, and campaigning for women’s rights.
On future plans, he said, “My next plan is to go to Australia to work with students in rural areas. Like the kids in India, [Australia’s] rural kids are not exposed to many of the experiences they deserve to be exposed to.”
He revealed that they are looking for investors who “really believe in the work [they] do”, and they’ll have to experience and understand their coaching style before making any decisions.
As of now, they have investors who want them to build a school in India.
After he completes setting up his team in India and Australia, he’ll move on to opening another campus in Singapore which is due to open in January next year.
It’s great to see Singaporeans actively making a change in other people’s lives with the knowledge and experiences they have, be it here or overseas.
And while the way our education system is run in Singapore is still a hot topic for debate, that shouldn’t stop us from sharing what we know and what we have with others who don’t!
Featured Image Credit: Score Campus India