His classes are never yawn-inducing

KEEPING IT LIVELY: Mr Tan Seng Hoe has many ways to ensure that his lessons are engaging, such as tapping on real-life examples, and observations made during holidays overseas.


    Sep 30, 2013

    His classes are never yawn-inducing

    IN THE competitive environment of Singapore's education system today, most students might hesitate to readily share study tips with their peers, let alone help them ace examinations.

    But for Mr Tan Seng Hoe, that kind of sharing was the natural thing to do back in 1976, when he was a student in Klang, Selangor.

    He would coach his friends in their studies and take pride in helping them score good marks in exams.

    In fact, he saw his friends' achievements as his reward.

    It is no surprise then that Mr Tan, now 56, is a teacher. And he has been doing it for the past 35 years.

    Currently a lecturer at private institution Informatics, Mr Tan teaches modules in business administration, such as human resource and economics.

    And even though he has been with Informatics for 24 years - making him one of the longest- serving faculty members - he still makes an effort to ensure that his lessons are always interesting.

    "Unless you are able to capture the students' attention, very quickly you will realise that the students have retreated into their own world. When that happens, they will not learn anything," he said.

    Mr Tan's classes are never boring, even if they are about yawn-inducing theories and dry with numbers.

    One of his secrets in keeping his lessons engaging is to tap on real-life examples, which he culls from stories he reads in the newspapers daily. He also includes observations made during overseas vacations.

    Once, an idea for a lesson struck him while he was on a family holiday in Japan. He had noticed that a huge Yoshinoya eatery had only two workers. He then learnt that the fast-food chain used machines to collect orders from diners.

    He later cited that observation in his class, using it to illustrate why companies would spend millions of dollars on automation to improve business efficiency.

    And it seems that Mr Tan has got a winning formula - his teaching methods have won him several fans among his students, including Mr Ivan Ong, who took his classes last year when he was doing his advanced diploma in business administration at Informatics.

    The 24-year-old described Mr Tan as a lecturer who does not "just go through the motions". He would go the extra mile, such as providing notes with diagrams and examples to further explain information in textbooks.

    "I was initially very sceptical about teachers in private schools in general, but Mr Tan proved me wrong with his dedication to his job and the school," said Mr Ong, a sales executive.

    "It is lecturers like Mr Tan that help Informatics Academy maintain its pride in providing quality education," he added.

    Mr Tan, however, would have none of that accolade.

    "I do not count the hours but put in whatever is required of my job," he said. "Surprisingly, it's not tiring."

    How do you make yourself approachable to your students?

    My mobile number is no secret as I display it on the school noticeboard. Also, I always try my best to help them when they make panic calls to me, even if it's midnight. That usually happens on the day before their assignment is due.

    Do you also engage your students outside of class?

    Yes. I organise class excursions for my students to places of interests like Haw Par Villa and Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve because I want to share with them bits of Singapore's history and heritage. It also makes them more comfortable around me, and that's when they learn better.

    What advice do you have for those about to enter the workforce?

    Place honesty, integrity, credibility, trustworthiness and sincerity above money. Don't chase after money. Do what you are most passionate about and happiness - and money - will follow.

    For more information on the courses offered at Informatics Academy, visit www.informatics.edu.sg